Last Friday the Armenian police conducted an operation that resulted in the arrest of several people suspected of committing armed attacks targeting the homes of at least five wealthy government-linked individuals. The reported robberies followed the same pattern, with masked men breaking into the mansions early in the morning, beating up their owners and stealing cash and other valuables.
Earlier this week police said Artush Hakobian, who was arrested the following day in a restaurant, was the ringleader of the suspected gang. The man was charged with banditry and armed robbery on Tuesday.
Hakobian is the son of Surik Hakobian, the owner of the Garnii Suriki Lavash company producing lavash, thin flatbread popular in Armenia. The businessman, who is also a member of the pro-establishment Prosperous Armenia party and once headed its local chapter in Garni, insists his son has nothing to do with the crimes and has been “framed up” in an attempt to expropriate his father’s company.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Wednesday Hakobian said his other son Andranik was also detained and questioned and even his 13-year-old grandson was interrogated in connection with the case. And Artush’s wife Marina Georgadze, he says, has been kept in a penitentiary for women for already four days. He also called it a lie that illegally kept weapons were found at his son’s house.
“I can employ a hundred people in Garni, they want to disrupt my work, nothing else,” claimed Hakobian, without elaborating. The businessman denied having any enemies. At the same time, he described his bread as the best in the market in terms of its quality and said he had no competitors in this regard.
Meanwhile, the Prosecutor-General’s Office has confirmed the arrest of Hakobian’s daughter-in-law, but said it had nothing to do with the gang case. Spokesperson Sona Truzian said Marina Georgadze was a convicted criminal in Georgia wanted for fraud by law-enforcement bodies in Tbilisi and her arrest was part of Armenia’s commitments under a corresponding international convention.