A law-enforcement body has asked a Yerevan court to allow it to arrest Ruben Hayrapetian, a wealthy businessman linked to Armenia’s former leadership, on kidnapping and assault charges.
The Investigative Committee indicted Hayrapetian, his son Rafik and four other persons earlier this month. It claimed tha in 2016 they kidnapped and systematically beat up the chief manager of a Hayrapetian-owned resort who allegedly misused more than 52 million drams ($108,000) borrowed from a commercial bank controlled by the feared tycoon.
A statement released by the committee said the manager, Hayk Shahnazarian, was held in captivity for three weeks before handing over about $50,000 worth of cash, cars and jewelry items to his kidnappers. It said the latter also forced him to give up a house belonging to his grandmother.
A lawyer for Hayrapetian, Amram Makinian, denied the accusations when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service on May 19. He claimed said his client is a victim of the “apparent crime” committed by Shahnazarian.
Hayrapetian left Armenia in March and, according to the Investigative Committee, is currently in Moscow. A spokeswoman for the committee, Rima Yeganian, said on Wednesday that during a recent phone conversation with an investigator he claimed to be unable to return to Yerevan because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yeganian dismissed that explanation, saying that the Armenian Embassy in Russia expressed readiness to help repatriate the suspect on a special Moscow-Yerevan flight carried out on Monday but that he did not accept the offer. Investigators therefore believe that he simply fled prosecution, said the official.
Hayrapetian, 56, has long supported former President Serzh Sarkisian and remains affiliated with the latter’s Republican Party. He used to represent the party in the Armenian parliament.
The once influential tycoon, who was notorious for violent conduct, accused the current authorities of harassing him for political reasons after being briefly detained by the Armenian police in February. The police claimed he was taken in for questioning on suspicion of illegal arms possession.
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 he headed from 2002-2018. Masked police officers searched his Yerevan villa in December as part of the same probe. He was not charged as a result.