MOSCOW (RFE/RL)—A committee of medical experts is looking into the possibility of allowing a top Armenian businessman, who was arrested in Moscow last week, to be confined to his house pending investigation or trial.
Levon Hayrapetian is expected to be officially charged on July 24. Last Thursday, a Moscow court allowed his two-month imprisonment while investigators conduct a probe into his alleged criminal connections and involvement in some illegal financial dealings.
The 65-year-old native of Nagorno-Karabakh known for his business projects and charity in the Armenian republic is said to have been based mainly in Monaco in recent years. He was arrested by Russian Federal Security Service officials upon arriving in Moscow on July 15.
Ruben Markarian, the businessman’s lawyer, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that his client has some health problems that qualify him for the possibility of being placed under house arrest while investigation is in progress. A decision, according to him, is expected to be made by medical experts within two weeks.
Markarian also said that the charge is expected to be connected with an economic crime. At the same time, he said he was perplexed over the circumstance that neither investigators, nor the court, judging by the official documents, consider Hayrapetian’s sphere of activity to be entrepreneurship. “This is a kind of legal nonsense. They think that the crime was committed not in the sphere of entrepreneurship,” the lawyer said. “I think what we have here is a deliberate substitution of notions.”
The Armenian businessman, who is accused of some illegal dealings connected with a Russian oil company, Bashneft, denies any wrongdoing and his lawyer also sees no grounds for any suspicions against his client. Some media have alleged that Hayrapetian’s arrest and prosecution are part of another process of ‘redistribution of property’ in Russia.
Meanwhile, head of the Union of Armenians of Russia Ara Abrahamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) last week that both the Union and the head of the Armenian Church in Russia, Fr. Yezras Nersisian, were preparing a petition and were ready to act as guarantors for the release of the well-known Armenian businessman from custody.
Hayrapetian’s case also elicited mixed reactions in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh last week. While officials in Yerevan provided terse comments and would not be drawn into speculations about any political motives behind the arrest, some opposition figures, families and friends of the businessman spoke openly about such a possibility.
Hayrapetian is considered to be one of the wealthiest Armenians in the world. He is known to have invested millions of dollars into developing Nagorno-Karabakh’s infrastructure and renovating the area’s historical-cultural monuments. His charity included a mass wedding for 700 Karabakh couples in 2008 and sponsorship of the construction of a military college in Martakert.
Some of the businessmen’s friends, such as Major-General Arkady Ter-Tadevosian, one of the Armenian commanders in the 1992-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh nicknamed Komandos, have even alleged an ‘Azerbaijani scheme’ behind the arrest, saying that its aim is to harm Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian-Russian relations.