Ruben Hayrapetian, a once influential businessman linked to Armenia’s former leadership and prosecuted on a string of criminal charges, has been a Russian citizen since 2003, prosecutors in Yerevan said on Tuesday.
Hayrapetian left for Russia in March this year shortly before being indicted in two criminal investigations launched by Armenian law-enforcement authorities. He strongly denied all accusations leveled against him and claimed to be unable to return to Armenia because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Investigative Committee dismissed the claim, saying that it believes he fled the prosecution.
The committee charged Hayrapetian, his son and four other persons with kidnapping, violent assault and extortion in May. Another law-enforcement agency, the Special Investigative Service, claimed afterwards that the tycoon illegally privatized municipal land in Yerevan in 2015.
Later in May, a Yerevan court agreed to issue an arrest warrant for Hayrapetian before investigators launched an international hunt for him. One of his lawyers said last week that Russian law-enforcement bodies have formally decided to stop hunting for his client.
Armenian prosecutors asked their Russian colleagues to confirm or refute the lawyer’s claim. According to Gor Abrahamian, a spokesman for the Office of the Prosecutor-General, they have still not received an answer from Moscow.
Abrahamian said investigators have found out that Hayrapetian received Russian citizenship in June 2003. It is not yet clear whether this is the reason why he was reportedly removed from Russia’s most wanted list, the official told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
In late 2018, Moscow refused to extradite Mikael Harutiunian, a former Armenian defense minister wanted by Armenian law-enforcement authorities on coup charges. It argued that Harutiunian is a Russian national.
Armenia’s constitution did not allow dual citizenship until 2006.
Hayrapetian, 56, has long supported former President Serzh Sarkisian and remains affiliated with the latter’s Republican Party (HHK). He was repeatedly elected to Armenia’s former parliaments on the HHK ticket.
Hayrapetian, who is commonly known as “Nemets Rubo” and notorious for violent conduct, also headed the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) from 2002-2018.