A court in Yerevan on Monday refused to allow a law-enforcement agency to arrest the city’s former deputy mayor indicted in an ongoing criminal investigation into Ruben Hayrapetian, a wealthy businessman linked to Armenia’s former leadership.
Earlier this year, the Special Investigative Service (SIS) accused Hayrapetian of illegally privatizing in 2014 municipal land at a knockdown price. It claimed that he paid only 169 million drams ($350 million) to buy, through intermediaries, a plot worth 800 million drams.
The SIS said at the weekend that then Deputy Mayor Vahe Nikoyan arranged the transaction through a bogus auction. It charged Nikoyan and one of his former aides with abuse of power and forgery before asking the district court to sanction their pre-trial arrest. The court rejected both arrest warrants.
Nikoyan denied the accusations leveled against him but declined to comment further when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
A member of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Nikoyan served as deputy mayor from 2012-2018. He and Yerevan’s HHK-affiliated former Mayor Taron Markarian resigned shortly after the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.” Nikoyan subsequently turned down an offer to become an adviser to Hayk Marukian, the city’s new mayor linked to Armenia’s current government.
Hayrapetian, who is also an HHK member, left Armenia for Russia in March more than a month before being indicted in a separate inquiry conducted by the Investigative Committee. The committee claims that the tycoon, his son and four other persons kidnapped and repeatedly 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.
The tycoon rejects all charges brought against him as politically motivated. He claims to be unable to return to Armenia because of the coronavirus pandemic.
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 Hayrapetian’s lawyers, Amram Makinian, said last week that Russian law-enforcement bodies have formally decided to stop hunting for him. The decision means that he is unlikely to be extradited to Armenia.