Ruben Hayrapetian, a government-linked wealthy entrepreneur, confirmed on Friday that he has become the owner of yet another company claimed by the embattled family of a fellow businessman supporting the Armenian opposition.
Hayrapetian told RFE/RL that he has purchased a controlling stake in the Byuregh mineral water plant from two little-known businessmen. One of them, Gor Davtian, is the main witness in a controversial criminal case brought against a younger brother of opposition-linked tycoon Khachatur Sukiasian.
Saribek Sukiasian was detained on February 12 in a police raid on the Yerevan headquarters of the Sukiasian family’s SIL Concern group and held in police custody for three days. He was subsequently charged with illegally keeping Davtian in the SIL offices.
The police claim he tried to force Davtian to sign fake documents relating to Byuregh’s ownership. Sukiasian strongly denies the accusation, saying that it is part of a broader government vendetta waged against his exiled brother.
The Sukiasians bought almost 86 percent of Byuregh from Davtian and the other shareholder, Robert Harutiunian, in late 2008. An Armenian court annulled the deal last November.
According to Saribek Sukiasian’s lawyers, the two sides were close to signing another takeover agreement in the weeks leading up to the police inquiry. They say Davtian visited the SIL headquarters on February 12 to ask Sukiasian for protection against Hayrapetian, who allegedly used threats to warn him against selling his Byuregh shares to Sukiasian.
“The criminal proceedings against Saribek Sukiasian made things easier for them,” one of the lawyers, Lusine Sahakian, insisted on Friday, referring to the Armenian authorities. “They wanted to make sure they can keep Gor Davtian under their control.”
Sahakian said Hayrapetian, who heads the Armenian Football Federation and is a staunch backer of President Serzh Sarkisian, formalized the Byuregh takeover on February 22, ten days after Sukiasian’s arrest.
Hayrapetian confirmed the information when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service. But he insisted that he did not coerce any of the shareholders into selling their shares to him.
Neither man has been available for comment. Davtian’s whereabouts have been unknown ever since the launch of the criminal proceedings against Sukiasian.
Hayrapetian angrily denied any role in Sukiasian’s prosecution. “I’m going to make more acquisitions,” he added without elaboration.
The pro-government tycoon already acquired late last year another water plant that was owned by the Sukiasians until being confiscated by the Armenian government. Tax officials raided the Bjni company and accused it of large-scale tax evasion shortly after Khachatur Sukiasian publicly voiced support for opposition Levon Ter-Petrosian in September 2007.