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Former Armenian ‘Oligarch’ Detained


Armenia -- Businessman Ruben Hayrapetian speaks to journalists after being released by police, Yerevan, February 4, 2020.

Ruben Hayrapetian, a wealthy businessman linked to Armenia’s former leadership, accused the authorities of harassing him for political reasons after being briefly detained by police in Yerevan on Tuesday.

The police said Hayrapetian was taken in for questioning on suspicion of illegal arms possession. He was released without charge three hours later.

Hayrapetian mocked the police action when he spoke to journalists after his release. “I think they looked for a Su-30 [fighter jet], a T-90 tank and BTR and BMP [armored personnel carriers] in my pockets. You obviously understand who ordered that,” he said in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

“A person who legally owns three guns will never possess weapons illegally and they know this very well,” he said. “This is yet another [political] show.”

The once powerful businessman also warned: “Even if they made me lie on the ground, I want to stress that there is nothing shameful about being forced by policemen to lie on the ground. But you can be sure that one day I will make them lie on the ground and wipe my feet on them.”

According to one of Hayrapetian’s lawyers, Amram Makinian, the police also detained several of his friends and impounded two cars belonging to him. Both vehicles were returned to their owner later in the day.

Armenia - Masked policemen are seen outside Ruben Hayrapetian's villa, Yerevan, December 13, 2019.
Armenia - Masked policemen are seen outside Ruben Hayrapetian's villa, Yerevan, December 13, 2019.

The detention came one day after Hayrapetian was questioned as a witness in a criminal investigation into alleged corruption in the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) which the tycoon headed from 2002-2018. Police searched his Yerevan villa in December as part of the same probe. He was not charged as a result.

Hayrapetian, 56, has long supported former President Serzh Sarkisian and remains affiliated with the latter’s Republican Party, which he used to represent in the Armenian parliament. He had to resign from the parliament in 2012 following a brutal attack on several army medics who dined at his Yerevan restaurant. One of them died while two others were seriously injured after arguing with men working at the restaurant.

Hayrapetian, who is commonly known as “Nemets Rubo,” was also dogged by other controversies resulting from his reportedly violent conduct.

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