Samvel Aleksanian, one of Armenia’s wealthiest and most influential businesspeople, has been questioned by law-enforcement authorities on suspicion of kidnapping a once prominent journalist.
The veteran journalist, Hamlet Ghushchian, alleged in March that he was forced into Aleksanian’s car and driven away “year ago.” “He then got me out of his jeep and put a gun to my neck,” said Ghushchian, who was a well-known sports reporter in Soviet times and hosted TV talk shows in the 1990s and early 2000s.
He claimed that Aleksanian unjustly accused him of airing slanderous information about vodka produced by of the tycoon’s firms.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee launched a criminal investigation into Ghushchian’s allegations early this month. Aleksanian confirmed on Wednesday that the law-enforcement agency has interrogated him as part of the inquiry.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service by phone, he strongly denied kidnapping the journalist and insisted that he had never even met the latter.
“I’m not a kidnapper, my dear,” said Aleksanian. “I hope you guys don’t kidnap me. How can I kidnap others?”
Ghushchian stood by his allegations, however. He said he is outraged by the fact that Aleksanian was questioned as a witness and not charged.
Aleksanian, who is commonly known as “Lfik Samo,” owns some of Armenia’s most lucrative firms, including the ones that have long controlled imports of sugar and other foodstuffs.He was a member of the Armenian parliament from 2003-2018, a fact that highlighted his close ties with the country’s former leaders.
The 50-year-old “oligarch” quit former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) in June 2018 more than a month after the latter resigned amid mass protests against his continued rule. Aleksanian has kept a very low profile since then. According to media reports, the 2018 “velvet revolution” has not had a serious impact on his businesses.