YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenian-American businessman Nareg Hartounian and two of his local employees were released from jail on Tuesday three days after being controversially arrested on tax evasion charges.
Hartounian and senior executives of his food-importing company GH Storage Enterprise, Ani Mnatsakanian and Artur Galstian, were not cleared of the charges, though.
“The Office of the Prosecutor-General has said that that there is no more need for their arrest. It issued no written documents,” Ani Torosian, one of their lawyers, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Hartounian, Mnatsakanian and Galstian were charged on Saturday with “malevolently” evading 111 million drams ($290,000) in taxes since 2009. They denied the accusations through their lawyers.
The latter linked the arrests with a civil lawsuit filed by Hartounian against the State Revenue Committee (SRC) earlier this month. One of the attorneys also claimed on Monday that the businessman was jailed because his extended family refused to sell a 34 percent share in another Yerevan company to a group of government-linked individuals.
The arrests provoked protests from opposition figures in Yerevan and Diaspora Armenians. More than a thousand people signed a petition on the Internet demanding Hartounian’s immediate release.
Torosian suggested that the campaign was instrumental in the unexpected release of the three suspects.