Parliament Member Charged With Assault, Tax Evasion

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Hakob Hakobian, a controversial businessman and parliament deputy, has been formally indicted and will likely stand trial on a string of charges that could land him in prison for up to seven years. The indictment was made possible by the Armenian parliament’s decision on Friday to lift Hakobian’s immunity from prosecution over his alleged role in the October 8 mass brawl at a gas distribution station near Yerevan. Officials at Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said on Tuesday that the accusations leveled against his include illegal arms possession, hooliganism, tax evasion and abuse of power. The hooliganism charge carries between four and seven years’ imprisonment. Addressing the National Assembly, Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian accused Hakobian of organizing and leading an armed assault on the gas facility in the village of Hayanist after security guards there refused to allow him to enter its premises. Hakobian is said to have visited it to demand that the ARG national gas distributor resume supplies to nearby liquefied gas stations owned by him. But the 43-year-old lawmaker, who recently joined the governing Republican Party of Armenia, presented a different version of events, saying that he arrived at the scene to stop a "manly fight" between the security guards and local residents working for him. He claimed that more than 30 locals were arrested by security forces and are still "illegally" kept in detention. The prosecutors denied the claims, insisting that only four persons, including Hakobian and his chief bodyguard, were detained and released last week. None of them except Hakobian has been charged so far. The prosecutors used the Hayanist incident to bring other, unrelated charges against the reputedly thuggish man better known to the public with his "Choyt" nickname. In his parliament speech, Hovsepian claimed that he has evaded taxes and committed other financial abuses in the past 15 years.

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