Police searched the house of the Republican Party politician and former head of Armenian Football Federation (AFF) Ruben Hayrapetyan. Hayrapetyan claims that the authorities are trying to influence the upcoming election for a new AFF president.
The Police Head of Public Relations, Ashot Aharonyan, has reportedly confirmed that a criminal case based on the results of the 13 December search was sent to Armenia’s Investigative Committee. The Committee launched an investigation in Hayrapetyan on 16 December.
The investigation includes four different criminal offenses: money laundering, falsifying documents, abuse of power, as well as official negligence.
Hayrapetyan is one of the most infamous Republican Party politicians, and is known popularly by his nickname ‘Nemets Rubo’ (Rubo the German). A former Republican Party MP, he resigned from his post in 2012, after military doctor Vahe Avetyan was beaten to death by Hayrapetyan’s bodyguards at a restaurant also owned by Hayrapetyan.
Hayrapetyan was not indicted for the incident. Six men who were directly involved in the beating were sentenced to twelve years in prison.
He had served as president of the Armenian Football Federation since 2002, and was removed in 2018, following the Velvet Revolution.
‘Orders from above’
On the evening after the search, Hayrapetyan gave an interview to 168.am, during which he stated that the interrogation was connected to construction work carried out by the Football Federation during his tenure.
Hayrapetyan said that the investigation was politically charged and that he was being railroaded by the authorities, as there was no way that investigators could have discovered evidence of wrongdoing so shortly after seizing documents from his home.
‘They need a year to a year and a half to check and investigate everything,’ Hayrapetyan said. ‘We can conclude from this that they’ve received orders from above to quickly neutralize me.’
When asked why they would want to ‘neutralize’ him, Hayrapetyan, who served as the AFF president for 16 years, stated that they wanted him arrested before the AFF election scheduled for 23 December. He implied that the authorities feared he could influence the election.
The election was triggered by the resignation of the previous president, Artur Vanetsyan on 21 November. Vanetsyan had also previously been the head of Armenia’s National Security Service, but was forced to step down in September.
Earlier in the day, as the police were still searching his house, Hayrapetyan spoke to reporters.
‘I’m not being arrested nor will I be arrested,’ Hayrapetyan told the reporters. ‘There’s no need to stand here. Go and talk to [AFF Vice-President] Armen [Melikbekyan] and [AFF interim Secretary-General] Armen Nikoghosyan.’
Armen Nikoghosyan told reporters he does not know why Hayrapetyan mentioned his name.
‘I honestly don’t know why because I’m neither the head of the police nor the head of the NSS [National Security Service] to have any authority or knowledge on the investigation,’ Nikoghosyan said.
Currently, there are three candidates for the AFF presidency: Armen Melikbekyan, popular Soviet football player Khoren Hovhannisyan, and president of the Lori Football Club Tovmas Grigoryan.
Threats and mockery
During his interview with 168.am, Hayrapetyan criticized Melikbekyan and Hovhannisyan. Hayrapetyan called Melikbekyan a ‘catastrophe,’ and made fun of the fact that he once spent a day with a torn shoe as a result of which he supposedly became an ‘a running joke in the AFF.’
He also accused him for stealing money from the AFF. In a subsequent interview with Azatutyun Melikbekyan denied the allegation and claimed he had documents to prove his innocence.
As for his torn shoe, Melikbekyan stated it’s ridiculous to even bring that up. ‘This was offensive to those thousands of people who wear shoes until they are worn out [compared to those that can afford to buy new shoes often, like Hayrapetyan],’ Melikbekyan said.
Hayrapetyan also threatened football player Khoren Hovhannisyan. He claimed that he respects Hovhannisyan as a football player, but added that football players should ‘not forget who I am’.
‘The Soviet Union’s football federation archives are at my house right now which includes everything about every football player, even the bad things they’ve done’, he said. ‘I advise them to steer clear from me.’
Hovhannisyan told Azatutyun that he had nothing to be afraid of and Hayrpatyan can publish anything he wants.
Hayrapetyan has since expressed support for Tovmas Grigoryan, the third candidate for the position of AFF President.