An Armenian law-enforcement agency on Thursday condemned Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian for ignoring a summons from its officials investigating an arson attack reported ahead of a local election won by a BHK-backed candidate.
The Investigative Committee planned to question Tsarukian as a witness in the case on Wednesday evening. The wealthy businessman leading Armenia’s largest parliamentary opposition force did not show up for the interrogation.
A spokeswoman for the committee, Naira Harutiunian, claimed that Tsarukian ripped up the summons after it was handed to him by law-enforcement officials on Tuesday.
“I think that as a member of the parliament Mr. Tsarukian had no right to behave like that because his action was disrespectful towards law-enforcement bodies,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Harutiunian would not say whether the investigators will try to question Tsarukian again and what they will do if he ignores another summons. She also declined to explain why they want to talk to him in connection with the arson attack reported one day before Sunday s tense mayoral election in Abovian, a town just north of Yerevan that has long been the tycoon’s political stronghold.
Abovian’s pro-Tsarukian incumbent mayor, Vahagn Gevorgian, narrowly defeated his main challenger representing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party. The latter’s election campaign manager, Vahan Saribekian, said his car and apartment door were set on fire early on Saturday. He blamed the BHK for the attack.
The BHK denied any responsibility for it. Tsarukian and his associates suggested that the incident was faked for political purposes.
“The prime minister must order [law-enforcement authorities] to solve that case,” Tsarukian told reporters on Monday.
“We continue to suspect that what happened in Abovian was a stage-managed show,” Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK figure, said on Thursday. She challenged the Armenian police to “dispel or confirm our concerns.”
Pashinian’s relations with Tsarukian have been tense since April. In May, the pro-government majority in Armenia’s parliament implicitly threatened to strip Tsarukian of his parliament seat, saying that his entrepreneurial activities may be illegal. The BHK leader, who is one of Armenia’s richest men, insisted that he complies with a constitutional provision that bars lawmakers from directly engaging in business.