Law-enforcement authorities on Wednesday asked a court in Yerevan to issue a fresh arrest warrant for a prominent Armenian businessman who was allowed to receive medical treatment abroad after being indicted more than a year ago.
The businessman, Samvel Mayrapetian, was arrested in October 2018 on charges of “assisting” in large-scale bribery alleged by a fellow entrepreneur, Silva Hambardzumian.
Hambardzumian claimed to have transferred millions of dollars in cash to former Presidents Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian and another former official through Mayrapetian in 2008. The latter strongly denied the allegation before being freed on bail in December 2018.
In January 2019, the Special Investigative Service (SIS) reluctantly allowed Mayrapetian to undergo treatment in Germany. He promised to return to Armenia after recuperating from a life-threatening form of pancreatitis.
The SIS said afterwards that it expects Mayrapetian to fly back to Yerevan by October 15, 2019. His lawyers claimed later in October that he was hospitalized again in Germany due to another deterioration of his condition.
According to the SIS, the tycoon has since ignored, on “unsubstantiated” grounds, more orders to present himself before investigators. The law-enforcement body accused him of using his disease as an excuse to avoid returning to Armenia.
The SIS announced on Wednesday that it has launched a formal hunt for Mayrapetian and requested a court permission to arrest him again.
Mayrapetian’s lawyer, Karen Batikian, insisted that his client still has serious health problems and is not hiding in Europe.
“I talked to him one month ago,” Batikian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “He said he is going to undergo another surgery.”
The SIS move may also spell trouble for two individuals who guaranteed in writing that Mayrapetian will come back to the country once his treatment in a German clinic is complete. Those are Ruben Fanarjian, a senior professor at the Armenian State Medical University, and Rev. Vahram Melikian, a spokesman for the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Under Armenian law, Fanarjian and Melikian will risk fines or up to two years in prison if investigators claim and prove that they “malevolently” helped Mayrapetian escape justice. Neither man could be reached for comment.
In January 2019, Fanarjian and Melikian also deposited 15 million drams ($31,000) each in support of their guarantee. The SIS can now confiscate the sum.
Mayrapetian, 60, is one of Armenia’s leading real estate developers who also owns a national TV channel and a car dealership. Some media outlets had for years linked Kocharian’s elder son Sedrak to the Toyota dealership.
Kocharian is currently under arrest and on trial, having been charged in July 2018 in connection with the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. The ex-president was also charged with bribe-taking one year ago. He rejects all accusations as politically motivated.