By Emil Danielyan and Ruzanna Stepanian
A former head of Armenia’s prisons and detention facilities has been arrested on charges of kidnapping and holding to ransom an Armenian man in Moscow.
Law-enforcement authorities confirmed late Monday that Samvel Hovannisian, who headed a Justice Ministry department running the Armenian penitentiary system until June last year, was detained on Friday. Officers of a special police unit tasked with combating organized crime searched his Yerevan apartment shortly afterwards.
Sona Truzian, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General’s Office told RFE/RL that Hovannisian was formally charged Monday under an article of the Armenian Criminal Code that deals with kidnappings committed by an “organized group” of individuals.
The law-enforcement agency detailed the accusations leveled against him in a written statement on Tuesday. The statement said Hovannisian was behind the June 27 kidnapping in Moscow of a man identified as Rubik Simonian. It said Simonian was set free on July 6 after paying a $300,000 ransom to a “representative” of the former prison chief.
The statement revealed that Hovannisian was arrested on a tip-off from Ara Abrahamian, a prominent Russian businessman of Armenian descent.
Citing unnamed law-enforcement sources, the daily “Aravot” reported that the investigators believe Hovannisian led a racketeering ring that also comprised several Russians and Georgians. The paper said they are cooperating with law-enforcement authorities in Russia and Georgia as part of the inquiry. It also quoted the sources as saying that Hovannisian has pleaded guilty to the accusations.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office confirmed that there are other suspects in the case, saying that “measures are being taken to identify and track down all of the individuals who committed the crime and to clarify all circumstances of the incident.”
(Photolur photo: Samvel Hovannisian.)