An affluent Armenian businessman based in Russia has been held for questioning over alleged connections with a criminal gang, Russian media reported on Wednesday.
According to the Rosbalt news agency, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers detained Levon Hayrapetian at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport on July 15 as the entrepreneur was returning from Monaco.
Hayrapetian, a 65-year-old native of Nagorno-Karabakh known for his investments and charity projects in this unrecognized Armenian republic, including a grand wedding for 700 couples there in 2008, is believed to be one of the wealthiest Armenian businessmen in the world.
The Russian law-enforcement agencies suspect him of having ties with the organized criminal group led by Sergey Finagin, a notorious Russian crime figure. According to a Rosbalt news agency report citing sources at Russia’s special services, FSB officials acted on the testimony given against Hayrapetian by former Russian senator from Bashkortostan Igor Izmestiev, who is serving a life prison term after being convicted in 2010 of violent crimes, including murders and terrorism, in a trial alongside a dozen members of the Kingisepp gang.
The gang that the Armenian businessman is suspected of having ties with is said to have committed more than a dozen contract killings and attempted assassinations over the past decade.
Hayrapetian, who is reportedly suspected of ‘illegal financial machinations’ in a deal concerning an oil company, may be formally charged and remanded in custody in the next few days. No official report on the matter is available yet and other details of the investigation also remain unclear.
The Armenian embassy in Moscow was reportedly checking the information and verifying the details connected with the businessman’s arrest as of Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, a close friend of Hayrapetian in Yerevan alleged an ‘Azerbaijani scheme’ behind the detention of the well-known businessman.
Major-General Arkady Ter-Tadevosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that reports suggesting that Hayrapetian was returning to Moscow from Monaco were false, as he was flying back to the Russian capital from Yerevan.
“This and other statements of the Russian side are false,” Ter-Tadevosian, a 1992-1994 Karabakh war hero also known as Komandos, said. “We were together in Karabakh, from there we came to Yerevan, and he went to Moscow. What Monaco? They can write whatever they want.”
By the way, Hayrapetian, who enjoys high prestige in Nagorno-Karabakh, is known to have met with U.S. President Barack Obama to raise the issues of the Armenian Genocide and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He is also said to have close ties with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.