A 70-year-old U.S. businessman of Armenian descent was sentenced on Thursday to 15 years in prison on charges of pedophilia which he partly accepted.
Serop Der-Boghossian, the owner of a mining firm based in the northern Armenian town of Akhtala, was convicted of “coercing” local underage boys to have sex with him.
Der-Boghossian, whose Metal Prince company is the small town’s main employer, was arrested in February following media reports that accused him of engaging in homosexual contacts with Akhtala teenagers. State prosecutors said he seduced them in 2009-2010 with cash and other “material assistance.”
Der-Boghossian strongly denied allegations shortly before the arrest. In a February 3 statement, he said unnamed individuals are trying to seize control of Metal Prince company by ruining his reputation.
But during his ensuing trial held in closed session the Iraqi-born businessman said he had consensual sex with both underage and older men. He insisted that he did not do that against their will.
A court in Vanadzor, capital of the northern Lori province, backed the prosecutors’ claims, however, convicting him under an article of the Criminal Code dealing with forcible sex with minors.
Der-Boghossian’s lawyer, Tigran Safarian, condemned the verdict as unfair and said he will appeal it. “If, according to the prosecution, an individual had a sexual relationship with Serop Der-Boghossian for two years, he could not have done that against his will,” Safarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
But Hovsep Sargsian, one of the trial prosecutors, dismissed this argument. He insisted that the defendant exploited the poverty of Akhtala boys and made them “materially dependent” on him. “We have to bear in mind that the victims were underage,” Sargsian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The prosecution identified ten victims in what has been Armenia’s most high-profile pedophilia case to date. All of them testified during the trial. The Vanadzor court was also presented with unpublicized video evidence of Der-Boghossian’s illicit relationships.
Der-Boghossian was listed as an adviser to Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian on the Armenian government’s website until January 31. According to the government press office, the Metal Prince owner stopped working for Sarkisian on December 31, 2010 for reasons unrelated to the sex scandal.