in EnglishSource : http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/27193756.html
Armenian Oligarch Accused Of Fresh Violence
Hovannes Movsisian եւ Irina Hovhannisyan
Հրապարակված է՝ 17.08.2015
An Armenian businessman was beaten up and hospitalized over the weekend in an attack which he said was led by Ruben Hayrapetian, a government-linked and reputedly violent tycoon heading the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA).
Arsen Avetisian, a majority shareholder in the country’s largest airline, was reportedly assaulted near an infamous Yerevan restaurant where security guards working for Hayrapetian beat to death a man three years ago.
Speaking in a Yerevan hospital where he is recovering from a broken nose and other serious injuries, Avetisian said the violence occurred during his meeting with Hayrapetian held at the FFA Football Academy on Saturday.
“Hayrapetian grabbed my hand, and when I tried to free my hand everybody else started hitting me,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I didn’t see who was hitting me as I lay on the ground.”
“They then took me to another place. Ruben Hayrapetian was there and he continued to talk to me,” he said, while lying on a hospital bed.
The businessman declined to give the reasons for the violence. He said he will give more details “in the coming days.”
Meanwhile, Avetisian’s, wife, Izabella Melkumian, published an open letter to President Serzh Sarkisian saying that Hayrapetian and his bodyguards kidnapped him after the beating. She claimed they demanded that the businessman managing Air Armenia, a private carrier, sign a statement certifying that he owes a substantial amount of money to the powerful oligarch.
“I appealed to law-enforcement bodies but am worried about the safety of my husband and other members of our family,” Melkumian said, pleading with Sarkisian to ensure their protection by the state.
The Armenian police said later in the day that they are investigating the allegations. A police spokesperson refused to divulge any details of that inquiry.
According to News.am, Hayrapetian and two of his bodyguards were questioned by police investigators. The tycoon refused to comment when contacted by the online publication. Neither he nor his aides answered phone calls from RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Other Armenian media outlets linked the violent incident with Air Armenia’s outstanding debts to another local airline, Taron-Avia from which it is said to have leased an aircraft until suspending its operations late last year. One publication suggested that Taron-Avia’s owner “ceded” the debt to Hayrapetian.
Air Armenia, which has still not resumed its flight services, also reportedly has unpaid debts to several Armenian banks. Avetisian was assaulted one day after a Ukrainian investment fund, which recently bought a 49 percent stake in Air Armenia, announced that it has invested over $68 million in the troubled airline.
Zhanna Aleksanian, a veteran human rights writer, believes that Avetisian’s beating highlighted a broader problem existing in Armenia. “The oligarchs who are members of [President] Serzh Sarkisian’s inner circle enjoy impunity,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “This is why such incidents recur. Only Serzh Sarkisian can tell how long this will continue.”
The weekend incident will inevitably rekindle memories of a June 2012 brutal assault on several Armenian army medics who dined at Yerevan’s Harsnakar restaurant owned by Hayrapetian’s family. One of them, Vahe Avetian, died while two others were seriously injured after arguing with burly men working at the restaurant.
The death of Avetian, a 35-year-old father of three, shocked the nation, sparking a series of angry street protests by hundreds of civic activists. They demonstrated outside the restaurant as well as Hayrapetian’s nearby villa against what they saw as a manifestation of impunity enjoyed by government-linked oligarchs.
The outcry forced Hayrapetian to resign as member of the Armenian parliament and apologize to Avetian’s family. But he stayed on as chairman of the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA),denying any involvement in the beating. Some media outlets accused him sanctioning or even ordering the violence, however.
In March 2014, six men thought to be Hayrapetian’s bodyguards were convicted of Avetian’s murder and sentenced to 12 years prison. An Armenian appeals court upheld this verdict three months later.
Hayrapetian continued to face allegations of violent conduct event after the Harsnakar incident. In particular, the oligarch was accused in November 2012 of beating up a doctor working for FC Pyunik, a football club controlled by him. In 2014, he allegedly verbally and physically abused a Pyunik player during a football match in Yerevan. Hayrapetian denied those allegations through the FFA’s press service.
The oligarch, who is a senior member of President Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia, has also been accused by Armenian opposition groups of politically motivated violence in the past. He is also notorious for insulting journalists.
in EnglishSource : http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/27199998.html
Injured Businessman Makes Peace With Powerful Attacker
Հրապարակված է՝ 20.08.2015
An Armenian businessman who was beaten up and hospitalized last week said on Thursday that he has accepted a “reconciliation offer” made by Ruben Hayrapetian, his presumed attacker connected to the government.
The development is a further indication that Hayrapetian, the wealthy and controversial chairman of the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA), will avoid prosecution for yet another violent incident widely blamed on him.
Arsen Avetisian, the chief executive and majority shareholder of the Air Armenia airline, suffered serious injuries during an August 15 meeting with Hayrapetian. He claimed to have been assaulted by the notorious tycoon’s bodyguards.
In a written statement, Avetisian said that he has decided to accept a “hand stretched out with the aim of reconciliation” in hopes of saving his debt-ridden company from bankruptcy. He cited a statement on the incident that was made on Wednesday by the East Prospect Fund, a British-registered company holding a 49 percent stake in Air Armenia.
The company deplored the attack on Avetisian, saying that it jeopardized its planned large-scale investments in Air Armenia. It also called on the Armenian authorities and all affected parties to find unspecified “lawful ways of solving the existing problem.”
The East Prospect Fund announced plans to invest over $68 million in Air Armenia one day before the violent attack. The fledgling carrier, which suspended its flights to Russia and Europe late last year, has millions of dollars in outstanding debts to several Armenian banks and other firms.
According to Avetisian’s wife, Izabella Melkonian, Hayrapetian tried to force the Air Armenia boss to repay some of those debts. Melkonian appealed to President Serzh Sarkisian the day after the incident,saying that the lives of her husband and his family members are now at risk.
“We opted for reconciliation because investments in the company were in danger,” an Air Armenia spokesman, Sirakan Hambardzumian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Investors expressed concern at the incident.”
“An offer of reconciliation was made by Ruben Hayrapetian the day after the incident,” said Hambardzumian. He insisted that the government-linked tycoon voiced no further threats against Avetisian.
What exactly that “reconciliation” means remained unclear. What is clear is that it should make it easier for Armenian law-enforcement authorities to avoid bringing criminal charges against Hayrapetian.
So far they have not even opened a criminal case in connection with Avetisian’s beating. A spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee said on Thursday that they are still “clarifying circumstances” of the incident.
“It is not clear what kind of reconciliation was proposed,” noted Zhanna Aleksanian, a well-known human rights campaigner. She urged the Avetisian family to shed more light on the deal.
Aleksanian suggested at the same time that Avetisian is too demand to seek Hayrapetian’s prosecution. She recalled in that regard the 2012 fatal beating by Hayrapetian’s bodyguards of a man at a Yerevan restaurant owned by the tycoon.
Several of those bodyguards subsequently received lengthy prison sentences for the crime that caused an outcry in Armenia. Hayrapetian, who has a history of violent conduct, had to resign as parliament deputy but avoided prosecution despite allegations that he condoned or even ordered the violence. He strongly denied any involvement.
Hayrapetian, 52, has been a staunch backer of President Sarkisian throughout the latter’s seven-year rule. The tycoon holds sway in Yerevan’s northern Avan district, putting him in a position to earn Sarkisian and the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) many votes there.
in EnglishSource : http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/27208399.html
Armenian Oligarch Avoids Prosecution For Fresh Violence
Emil Danielyan եւ Heghine Buniatian
Հրապարակված է՝ 25.08.2015
Ruben Hayrapetian, a controversial government-linked businessman heading the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA), will not be prosecuted despite admitting beating up another entrepreneur, law-enforcement authorities in Yerevan said on Tuesday.
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said it will not press criminal charges against Hayrapetian because of his “reconciliation” with the injured victim, Arsen Avetisian.
The development is certain to reinforce a widely held belief in Armenia that influential tycoons close to President Serzh Sarkisian and notorious for violent conduct enjoy de facto immunity from prosecution owing to their strong loyalty to the ruling regime.
Avetisian, who is the chief executive and majority shareholder of the Air Armenia airline, was assaulted and injured during an August 15 meeting with Hayrapetian that centered on some of the company’s massive debts. He was hospitalized with a broken nose and other injuries as a result. Avetisian’s wife, Izabella Melkumian, appealed to President Sarkisian the following day, saying that the lives of the businessman and his family members are in danger.
Avetisian announced on August 20 that he has accepted a “reconciliation offer” made by his presumed attacker and will not comment on the incident for now. He cited the need to save Air Armenia from bankruptcy.
In a lengthy statement released on Tuesday, the prosecutors said that the Air Armenia chief has not lodged a formal complaint against Hayrapetian because the two men have “made peace with one another.” They said this gave them sufficient legal grounds for not levelling assault charges against Hayrapetian.
The statement said the victim testified on August 19 that contrary to his wife’s claims he was not kidnapped by the feared oligarch and his bodyguards following the beating, which occurred in a Yerevan café located at the premises of the FFA’s Football Academy. Therefore, it said, Hayrapetian cannot be prosecuted on kidnapping charges either.
According to the prosecutors, Hayrapetian acknowledged punching and repeatedly kicking Avetisian when he was questioned by law-enforcement officials last week. They said the tycoon confirmed that the violence stemmed from Air Armenia’s failure to repay an outstanding debt to one of his “friends.”
Air Armenia, which suspended its regular flights to a dozen destinations in Russia and Europe late last year, has millions of dollars in unpaid debts to several Armenian banks and other firms. Some of those banks took it to court earlier this year.
Avetisian was attacked the day after a British-registered but Ukrainian-based investment fund holding a 49 percent stake in Air Armenia pledged to invest an additional $68 million in the troubled carrier.
In fresh comments to RFE/RL made over the weekend, the chief executive of the East Prospect Fund, Vladimir Bobylev, reiterated his strong condemnation of the violence, calling it an act of “savagery” and urging the Armenian authorities to prevent more such incidents. Even so, Bobylev stopped short of demanding Hayrapetian’s prosecution. “We hope that the matter will get a solution acceptable to all parties,” he said.
The fund manager further made clear that East Prospect will not reconsider its involvement in the Armenian civil aviation sector after the assault. He said the company has already made significant investments in the Armenian airline and continues to regard Avetisian as a “person whom we trust.”
By contrast, Bobylev warned last week that Avetisian’s beating put the East Prospect investments in Armenia at serious risk. In that context, he avoided citing any possible dates for the resumption of Air Armenia flights.
The August 15 assault happened just over three years after a brutal attack on several Armenian army medics who dined at Yerevan’s Harsnakar restaurant owned by Hayrapetian’s family. One of them, Vahe Avetian, died while two others were seriously injured after arguing with burly men working at the restaurant.
Avetian’s death shocked the nation, sparking angry protests by civic activists outside the restaurant as well as Hayrapetian’s nearby villa against what they saw as a manifestation of impunity enjoyed by government-linked oligarchs.
The outcry forced Hayrapetian to resign as member of the Armenian parliament and apologize to Avetian’s family. But he stayed on as FFA head, denying any involvement in the beating. Some media outlets accused him sanctioning or even ordering the violence, however. In March 2014, six men thought to be Hayrapetian’s bodyguards were convicted of Avetian’s murder and sentenced to 12 years prison.
Hayrapetian continued to face allegations of violent conduct event after the Harsnakar incident. Later in 2012, he was accused of beating up a doctor working for FC Pyunik, a football club controlled by him. In 2014, he allegedly verbally and physically abused a Pyunik player during a football match in Yerevan. Hayrapetian denied those allegations through the FFA’s press service.
Hayrapetian, 52, has been a staunch backer of President Sarkisian throughout the latter’s seven-year rule. The tycoon holds sway in Yerevan’s northern Avan suburb, putting him in a position to earn Sarkisian and the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) many votes there. Armenian opposition groups have accused him of bullying and attacking their local activists in the past.
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