An Armenian businessman who was beaten up and hospitalized last week said on Thursday that he has accepted a “reconciliation offer” made by Ruben Hayrapetian, his presumed attacker connected to the government.
The development is a further indication that Hayrapetian, the wealthy and controversial chairman of the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA), will avoid prosecution for yet another violent incident widely blamed on him.
Arsen Avetisian, the chief executive and majority shareholder of the Air Armenia airline, suffered serious injuries during an August 15 meeting with Hayrapetian. He claimed to have been assaulted by the notorious tycoon’s bodyguards.
In a written statement, Avetisian said that he has decided to accept a “hand stretched out with the aim of reconciliation” in hopes of saving his debt-ridden company from bankruptcy. He cited a statement on the incident that was made on Wednesday by the East Prospect Fund, a British-registered company holding a 49 percent stake in Air Armenia.
The company deplored the attack on Avetisian, saying that it jeopardized its planned large-scale investments in Air Armenia. It also called on the Armenian authorities and all affected parties to find unspecified “lawful ways of solving the existing problem.”
The East Prospect Fund announced plans to invest over $68 million in Air Armenia one day before the violent attack. The fledgling carrier, which suspended its flights to Russia and Europe late last year, has millions of dollars in outstanding debts to several Armenian banks and other firms.
According to Avetisian’s wife, Izabella Melkonian, Hayrapetian tried to force the Air Armenia boss to repay some of those debts. Melkonian appealed to President Serzh Sarkisian the day after the incident,saying that the lives of her husband and his family members are now at risk.
“We opted for reconciliation because investments in the company were in danger,” an Air Armenia spokesman, Sirakan Hambardzumian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Investors expressed concern at the incident.”
“An offer of reconciliation was made by Ruben Hayrapetian the day after the incident,” said Hambardzumian. He insisted that the government-linked tycoon voiced no further threats against Avetisian.
What exactly that “reconciliation” means remained unclear. What is clear is that it should make it easier for Armenian law-enforcement authorities to avoid bringing criminal charges against Hayrapetian.
So far they have not even opened a criminal case in connection with Avetisian’s beating. A spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee said on Thursday that they are still “clarifying circumstances” of the incident.
“It is not clear what kind of reconciliation was proposed,” noted Zhanna Aleksanian, a well-known human rights campaigner. She urged the Avetisian family to shed more light on the deal.
Aleksanian suggested at the same time that Avetisian is too demand to seek Hayrapetian’s prosecution. She recalled in that regard the 2012 fatal beating by Hayrapetian’s bodyguards of a man at a Yerevan restaurant owned by the tycoon.
Several of those bodyguards subsequently received lengthy prison sentences for the crime that caused an outcry in Armenia. Hayrapetian, who has a history of violent conduct, had to resign as parliament deputy but avoided prosecution despite allegations that he condoned or even ordered the violence. He strongly denied any involvement.
Hayrapetian, 52, has been a staunch backer of President Sarkisian throughout the latter’s seven-year rule. The tycoon holds sway in Yerevan’s northern Avan district, putting him in a position to earn Sarkisian and the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) many votes there.