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Vahe Sarukhanyan

MP Pays Dearly for Yet Another Adventure

Second attack

On September 26 at 4:10 a.m. Tigran Arzakantsyan, member of the Armenian Parliament, member of the Republican Party of Armenia, and owner of Great Valley, was attacked in the casino of Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. This is the second such incident involving Arzakantsyan in a Moscow casino, and it’s possible that the two incidents are related.

According to the Russian media, an argument between Arzakantsyan and two other individuals, who appeared to be from the South Caucasus, erupted in the casino. During the argument, one of the men stabbed Arzakantsyan three times and shot him twice, after which both fled the scene. The stab wounds were to Arzakantsyan’s chest and elbow, and one of the bullets struck near his heart, but didn’t penetrate it. (No bullet shells were found at the scene of incident).

The cameras in the casino recorded the whole incident. According to the Russian media, the investigation has revealed that at about 4 a.m. two individuals entered the casino - one of them bypassed the metal detector, while the other went through it and waited at the entry door. During that time, the first man approached the table where Arzakantsyan was sitting. An argument erupted between the two, and the stranger stabbed and shot the MP. The latter tried to defend himself, and that possibly saved his life.

Although the theory that this was a hired hit seems improbable, the Republican Party of Armenia believes that two gunshots following three knife-wounds is the work of a hit man. 

The police were notified of the incident at 4:22 a.m. 41-year-old Tigran Arzakantsyan was transferred in critical condition to Sklifosofski Hospital, where he underwent surgery. The Prosecutor Office of Moscow’s Tver County has opened a criminal case under Articles 30 and 105 articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

The Metropol is one the biggest and best known casinos in Moscow. It is considered secure, and is not generally known for such incidents. The Russian media attributes the fact that weapons were brought inside to the negligence of the eight security guards on duty, because the incident happened late at night.  Not only did one of the perpetrators avoid the metal detector, but the two men met n resistance as the fled the scene. 

Nevertheless, law enforcement officials, using the camera recordings, already have information about the criminals, and an investigation is under way.

Investigators have discovered that Arzakantsyan has a platinum card at the Metropol and that he has been there a total 33 times this year.

One year ago, at Kutuzov Hall

On March 29, 2006 Tigran Arzakantsyan was attacked in Moscow at the Kutuzov Hall Casino. The media and Arzakantsyan offered different versions of what happened. 

At the time, it was reported in the media that Arzakantsyan had been brutally beaten at Kutuzov Hall. Playing roulette and blackjack, the MP had lost $850,000, which he couldn’t pay. He asked for some time to come up with the funds. But he visited the casino the next day and refused to pay up, after which his creditors beat him up. Arzakantsyan was taken to a hospital with cerebral and other injuries, and prosecutors  opened a criminal case, with evidence suggesting it was a gangster attack.

According to Arzakantsyan, he went to the casino at the request of his Russian friend’s wife, who feared that her husband might lose a great deal of money in the grip of gambling euphoria. Arzakantsyan said he managed to get his friend out of the casino, then one of the casino’s owners, a Greek called Arik, called him into a private room for a conversation. Here he was attacked and beaten by some twenty people.  In the hospital, it became apparent that they had stolen his platinum cell phone, Frank Mueller watch, and other expensive items- worth $1.5 million dollars in total. The Russian press later stated that Arzakantsyan made up the $1.5 million story in order to avoid paying his $850,000 debt to the casino.

In any case, after all of this Arzakantsyan received medical help abroad, and was absent for a long time from Armenia. There were some rumors that he was avoiding certain people in the country.  In particular, Arzakantsyan had problems with Republican MP and businessman Ruben Hayrapetyan, who in the past was a shareholder in Kutuzov Hall.

Like certain of his business colleagues and political allies, Arzakantsyan likes to gamble in casinos, but unlike the others, he is unwilling to pay up when he loses.  For this and other reasons, his name has begun to appear in the tabloids in recent years.  In  2006, in the Bellagio casino in Ptghni, he refused to settle his debt, but the problem did not result in a beating. Another time the MP had business problems in Dubai and was in fact beaten up.

Tigran Arzakantsyan and Serzh Sargsyan

The Metropol incident coincided with Serzh Sargsyan’s official visit to Moscow, and it is possible that Arzakantsyan was in Sargsyan’s official delegation. However, after the incident, the Armenian embassy in Russia immediately released a statement that Arzakantsyan was on a private visit to Moscow and had no connection with the Armenian delegation. Yet the Russian media reported that Arzakantsyan was with the members of the delegation during a meeting with Armenians students at Moscow universities. Furthermore, the President Hotel, where the Armenian delegation stayed, is not far from the Metropol Casino. The Republican Party has strongly denied that Arzakantsyan was part of the delegation, as might be expected. 

In addition, there are rumors that those who argued with Arzakantsyan and attacked him were Armenian MPs.

Absent MP

Tigran Arzakantsyan, like many other businessman MPs, uses his seat in parliament to fulfill his own business aims. The frequent absences of Arzakantsyan and other businessman from Parliament sessions may be proof.  Specifically, during the seventh session of the third convening of the Armenian National Assembly (Feb 2006 - May 2006), businessmen Gagik Tsarukyan. Mkhitar Varagyan, and Tigran Arzakantsyan have been absent for more than half of the votes. Tsarukyan and Varagyan attributed their absences to business trips, and the former head of the Republican Party Galust Sahakyan attributed Arzakantsyan’s absence to the medical treatment he was undergoing in Moscow. This was the treatment that Arzakantsyan was receiving after being beaten up in at Kutuzov Hall. It appears that Arzakantsyan may miss some of the voting in this year's Parliament as well.

P.S. On October 1, the Russian magazine Commersant reported that the well-known Uzbek businessman Alimjhan Tokhtakhunov (a.k.a. Tayvanchik), who in August closed Asia, the largest casino in Moscow, is also preparing to close the Europe and Metropol Casinos. Tokhtakhunov has explained that casinos are not profitable. Yet according to a new law, as of January 1, 2009, only four areas will be zoned for casinos in Russia, and Moscow will not be among them. Thus, the oligarchs are already thinking about moving their businesses out of Moscow.