By Karine Kalantarian
A member of the Armenian parliament affiliated with a pro-establishment faction was arrested in the United Arab Emirates this week on criminal charges, the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan confirmed on Friday.
The ministry spokesman, Hamlet Gasparian, told RFE/RL that Hakob Hakobian, his son and a friend of the latter’s are being held in policy custody in Dubai. Gasparian refused to specify what they are accused of, saying only that the Armenian embassy in Abu Dhabi is trying to clarify circumstances of the case. The Armenian ambassador there is personally dealing with the matter, he added.
Citing “well-informed sources,” the Yerevan daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” reported on Friday that the three men are suspected of committing large-scale theft at a Dubai supermarket. The paper said they allegedly bought $24,000 worth of expensive clothing but paid only $16,000 at the cash desk. Police are said to have searched their hotel room and found “the stolen goods” there a few hours later, it wrote.
Hakobian, better known to the public with his “Choyt” nickname, is a wealthy businessman elected from a constituency south of Yerevan. A member of the People’s Deputy group of non-partisan deputies supporting President Robert Kocharian, he owned one of Armenia’s biggest and oldest banks in the past.
Hakobian’s name figured prominently in Armenian media reports last fall over his war of words with parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and his Orinats Yerkir Party. The two sides accused each other of corruption and other illegal activities. Incidentally, Baghdasarian was in the UAE on holiday earlier this month.
Hakobian is not the first Armenian deputy to be arrested abroad. Tatul Manaserian of the opposition Artarutyun bloc spent nearly two months in a U.S. jail early last year on charges stemming from a past dispute with his California-based former wife over custody for their teenage son.