A lawyer for Ruben Hayrapetian said on Thursday that Russian law-enforcement authorities have effectively refused to extradite the wealthy businessman linked to Armenia’s former leadership and prosecuted on a string of criminal charges.
Hayrapetian left for Russia in March more than a month before being first indicted by Armenia’s Investigative Committee.
The law-enforcement body claims he, his son Rafik and four other persons kidnapped and systematically beat up in 2016 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.
In a separate criminal investigation, Hayrapetian was also charged with abusing his former status as chairman of the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) in 2015 to privatize municipal land in Yerevan at a knockdown price.
Hayrapetian strongly denied the accusations through his lawyers. He told investigators from Moscow that he is unable to return to Armenia because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Investigative Committee dismissed the claim, saying that it believes he simply fled the prosecution.
In late May, a Yerevan court agreed to issue an arrest warrant for Hayrapetian and four other suspects. The investigators launched an international hunt for Hayrapetian shortly afterwards.
One of his lawyers, Amram Makinian, said his client has told him that Russian law-enforcement bodies have formally decided to stop hunting for him.
Makinian said he is not yet aware of the official reason for that decision. He claimed that he also does not know whether the fugitive tycoon holds Russian citizenship and therefore cannot be extradited to Armenia.
A spokesman for Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that it is now trying to verify the lawyer’s claims. The official, Gor Abrahamian, said Armenian prosecutors have contacted their Russian colleagues for that purpose.
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.
Hayrapetian is one of several former Armenian officials who are prosecuted in Armenia but are hiding in Russia. They all reject various accusations leveled against them as politically motivated.
One of them, Mihran Poghosian, headed a state body enforcing judicial acts during Sarkisian’s rule. Russian prosecutors refused to extradite Poghosian after reportedly holding him in detention for several weeks last year.