Harsnakar Oligarch Questioned by Authorities

Ruben Hayrapetian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The Armenian police have interrogated businessman Ruben Hayrapetyan but see no legal grounds yet to prosecute him in connection with last month’s deadly assault at a Yerevan restaurant owned by him, a senior police investigator said on Tuesday.

Arsen Ayvazyan, a high-ranking official from the police Inspectorate General of Criminal Investigations, said Hayrapetyan was formally questioned on Friday as a potential witness in the brutal beating of three military doctors who visited the Harsnakar restaurant on June 17.

One of them, Vahe Avetyan, died of severe head wounds on June 29. Six men, most of them restaurant security guards, were arrested and charged with assault following the incident that sparked public outrage.

The police have faced growing calls from opposition members, civic activists and some media to prosecute Hayrapetyan as well. They have accused the influential tycoon, who has close ties to the Armenian government, of complicity in Avetyan’s death.

“In their testimonies, neither the victims nor the suspects or witnesses have given any information regarding Ruben Hayrapetyan’s involvement,” Ayvazyan told a news conference. “And in these circumstances, with no evidence of his involvement in the criminal case, naturally we cannot speak of arresting or charging him.”

According to Ayvazyan, the investigators have already clarified that Hayrapetyan, who heads the Armenian Football Federation (AFF), was not at Harsnakar during the incident. He said the tycoon left the restaurant and headed to the nearby AFF soccer academy about two hours before Avetyan and the other doctors were assaulted in still unclear circumstances.

There have been media allegations that Hayrapetyan might have ordered the beatings by phone. Ayvazyan said the police will look into this theory by listening to his and his arrested employees’ phone conversations recorded by wireless operators. A Yerevan court has already ordered those companies to make the audio available to the investigators, he said.

Ayvazyan also denied media reports that the main suspect in the case, who is believed to have inflicted the fatal injuries on Avetyan, is a personal bodyguard of Hayrapetyan. He said all jailed suspects officially worked at the restaurant. Some of them have only escorted Hayrapetyan “on some special occasions” in the past, he claimed.

Many government critics in Armenia distrust police pledges to solve the case in full, citing what they see as impunity that has long been enjoyed by government-linked “oligarchs” like Hayrapetyan. Hundreds of people have demonstrated outside Harsnakar and key government buildings in Yerevan in recent weeks to demand a thorough and objective probe.

The four opposition groups represented in the Armenian parliament last week expressed concern about a possible government cover-up of the deadly incident. They demanded that parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian initiate parliamentary hearings on the case and invite senior police officials to give testimony.

Abrahamian rejected the demand on Tuesday. In a letter to leaders of the opposition minority in the National Assembly, he claimed that he lacks the legal authority to organize such hearings. He also argued against “any intervention not envisaged by law” before the police inquiry is over.

A member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, Hayrapetyan held a parliament seat until resigning from the National Assembly on July 3 amid a mounting public uproar.

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8 Comments

  1. Alex Postallian said:

    They are toe dancing around the issues,why were the men beaten,a very simple question. I feel a remiss in helping Armenia who lets these hoods prevail.The same people blaming the jerkee turkies for their brutality.

  2. Lag said:

    Though he is a despicable human being, the case against him is not strong enough, by any country’s standards, let alone by those of a corrupt placelike Armenia. And good luck in actually retrieving those mobile phone conversations.

  3. Sylva-MD-Poetry said:

    This man doesn’t look Armenian…
    He has another blood ….
    Let them do DNA for him…
    Armenians don’t have oligarchs…
    This I know from my father since my childhood…!

    • gabe korajian said:

      Armenia is run by oligarchs.. Wake up and smell the coffee. You guys do not understand how corrupt and rotten our system of government is. That is why we are where we are in Armenia. It is very sad. Hopefully the movement from Glendale by Mr. Manoukyan is the first sign of public awareness in Armenia over such matters and the fact that something has to be done to mitigate these crimes to say we have a just and lawful country. May be this is the beginning of the Armenian Springs… It’s time to start something before Armenia becomes a failed state. Wake up Armenians and do something to stop these gangsters from running the country as Mafia barons.

  4. Sylva-MD-Poetry said:

    This Oligarch’s Money
    Should not buy blood
    Of an educated person
    Who studied, worked honest hard
    To bring his family
    And serve his country…!

    This man is collecting wealth
    and never intends…To serve anyone except him self…
    As if he will live more than any one else…
    And put his cents in his grave…!

  5. ani said:

    I can’t even look at his face. He does not look like a decent human being. I can’t imagine these criminals are in the parliament. This is a big shame to a country and to a nation as well. These people seized our nation by corruption, and think they are above of everything. Our nation needs to wake up and show them the exit door. A.S.A.P.

  6. Gago said:

    Can this incident be the trigger to the Armenian Summer similar to the fruit salesman’s suicide that triggered the Arab Spring? I doubt it but let’s hope it checks these animals like tsaghik rubo.

    • Harut from BH said:

      Keep dreaming. The real animals here are those who are seeking an uprising in Armenia.

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