Russian-Armenian businessman and philanthropist.
Russia detains leading Armenian philanthropist
Levon Hairapetian faces charges related to 2009 oil company deal, denies wrongdoing by Emil Sanamyan
Published: Wednesday July 16, 2014
WASHINGTON - A leading Russian Armenian businessman and benefactor, who has spent tens of millions aiding Armenian causes in recent years, has been detained by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) on his arrival at a Moscow airport on July 15, Russia's Rosbalt news agency reported the next day. According to later reporting, Hairapetian arrived in Moscow from Yerevan for scheduled medical treatment.
According to sources in the Russian government cited by Rosbalt and Kommersant, a leading business daily, Levon Hairapetian's detention stems from the testimony by a former Russian senator Igor Izmestyev, who since 2010 has been serving a life prison sentence. Izmestyev reportedly pointed to Hairapetian's involved in the "financial machinations" around the 2009 sale of the Bashneft oil company.
According to RBC, a Russian business news agency, one of the leading Russian business holdings, AFK Sistema, purchased the majority control of Bashneft, at the time owned by the government of Bashkir Republic, for over $2 billion.
[On July 24, Hairapetian was formally charged with receiving a $50 million fee as part of the Bashneft deal, something that government investigators now consider illegal. Hairapetian denies any wrongdoing.
Investigators have also questioned Sistema's billionaire owner Vladimir Yevtushenkov, who has in turn described the situation as an attempt by the state to grab Bashneft after devaluing its stocks.]
Over the past decade, the Russian government has prosecuted a number of prominent businessmen in what many observers regarded as politically-motivated campaigns.
Hairapetian is known to be a citizen of Armenia, Russia, as well as the United States.
[In the days since his detention, leaders of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, several prominent figures in Armenia and Diaspora, including Russian community leader Ara Abrahamian and singer Charles Aznavour, have urged the Russian government to release Hairapetian, 65 and a diabetic, pending the investigation. But on investigators' recommendation, a Moscow court has declined bail and sanctioned a two-month pre-trial detention for Hairapetian.]
Powerful connections Born in Vank in Artsakh's Mardakert district in 1949, Hairapetian attended the Yerevan State University before graduating from the philosophy faculty and graduate school of the Moscow State University. After spending 11 years working in the oil sector in the Siberian city of Tyumen, Hairapetian became a correspondent for leading Soviet print media throughout the 1980s, rising to head the Sobesednik media holding that he continues to own.
Hairapetian is believed to have amassed a fortune in the Russian energy privatization deals of the 1990s. He has enjoyed warm relations with powerful politicians, including the late Viktor Chernomyrdin, who was prime minister from 1992 to 1999, another former prime minister Sergey Kiriyenko, who now heads the Russian nuclear energy agency, and the current foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
In recent years, Airapetian has split his time between Russia, Armenia, France and the United States.
Paying the "genetic tax" In TV interviews, Hairapetian has semi-jokingly referred to his involvement in Armenian causes as paying a "genetic tax" of gratitude to the land of his ancestors. He traces his paternal lineage to the Armenian princely family of Hassan-Jalalians, an offshoot of the Bagratuni royal family, who ruled Artsakh since the Middle Ages. On his mother's side, Hairapetian is also a grand-nephew of the prominent 20th century Armenian political and military figure Garegin Njdeh.
Since the 1990s, Hairapetian invested in the educational, cultural, tourist and industrial infrastructure in his native Vank, including the restoration of the Gandzasar Cathedral, as well as the 1998 restoration of the Shushi Kazanchetsots Cathedral. Hairapetian has also been a leading supporter of the Hayastan Fund infrastructure projects, pledging more than $7 million between 2007 and 2012.
In 2008, together with other leading Russian Armenian businessmen, like Rouben Vardanian, Daniil Khachaturov and Sergey Sarkisov, Hairapetian co-sponsored 700 weddings in Artsakh, subsequently became a godfather to 250 newborns and pledged long-term support for the young families. The project is intended to encourage population growth in Artsakh.
Last May, Levon Hairapetian contributed $300,000 to the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) during its fundraising telethon, a single largest donation.
At the same time, Hairapetian has in recent years repeatedly criticized the Armenian government for its failure to credibly crackdown on corruption and tax evasion.
For a Shant TV profile of Hairapetian in Armenian link to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqcMBn5wRzo.
[Since his arrest, a Facebook page has been established in support of Hairapetian, here https://www.facebook.com/FreeLevonHayrapetyan]
24.11.11 By SARA KHOJOYAN ArmeniaNow reporter
The society of Armenia and mass media are waiting for a response from the authorities and the oligarchy, related to well-known Armenian businessman Levon Hayrapetyan’s interview which has sharply criticized the present economic-political situation in Armenia, in which he blames corruption for Armenia’s failures.
“The ruling elite is the one which keeps corruption on a high level. And even though the situation is somehow similar in all post-Soviet countries, only Armenia has appeared in such a difficult geopolitical situation,” Hayrapetyan said in an interview with We Will not Keep Silent youth initiative.
Hayrapetyan, a Russian businessman and the stockholder of a few Russian energy companies has invested about $2.5 million in Karabakh in recent years. Hayrapetyan, originally from Karabakh is the general sponsor of Shushi’s reconstruction program, “Big Karabakh wedding”, and a number of other projects, and, believes that “half a year is enough to put everything in order in small Armenia.”
“I suggest realizing the ‘List’ operation. The ‘List’ is known to everyone. (Meaning the list with names of high ranking officials, MPs, oligarchs, who own big businesses and don’t pay taxes)
“Moreover, nowadays, the TV shows that some oligarchs give some pennies to people as if through philanthropic campaigns, creating the image of a philanthropist for them, and later they use it to become a lawmaker or a political figure,” said the businessman.
“But I want to emphasize that they [oligarchs] give pennies which they have stolen, not paying taxes. They rob from the State Budget, and that budget is for people, and later they give what they have stolen to people as a handout,” Hayrapetyan added.
The oppositional press calls Hayrapetyan a representative of the “Karabakh clan,” considering his interview to be against Levon Ter-Petrosyan, because Hayrapetyan stated that the basis of the present corrupt system has been created during Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s presidency.
Levon Zurabyan, coordinator of the Armenian National Congress (ANC), told ArmeniaNow that Hayrapetyan’s statement about Levon Ter-Petrosyan does not deserve a comment.