In July 2005, Viktorya Lukyanenko and Tatyana Malashenko, both residents of Ukraine, came to Yerevan to make money as strippers, although neither had worked in striptease before. They were met at Zvartnots Airport by Sos Meliksetyan, director of the Eliza Nightclub in Masis. Meliksetyan had made an arrangement with Ashot Hovsepyan, an Armenian citizen temporarily residing in Ukraine, to recruit striptease performers and send them to Armenia.
Sos Meliksetyan promised Ashot Hovsepyan US $150 for each performer recruited, and the girls were promised contracts with a monthly salary of US $700-1000.
"I first met Ashot Hovsepyan through my friend, Yulia Magalias. He proposed that I go to Armenia and work as a nightclub stripper for US $1,000 per month, giving him a monthly commission of US $100. Ashot told me that my transport costs, as well as boarding and lodging, would be covered by the nightclub management, that I would not be restricted in any way and could come back home whenever I wanted. I'd never had anything to do with striptease, but financial troubles forced me to agree to work for two months," said 16-year old Viktorya Lukyanenko.
In September, Ashot Hovsepyan sent two more Ukrainians, Diana Galavanova and Yelena Vinikova, to Armenia. Sos Meliksetyan arranged for the four girls to stay at the Argishti Hotel, adjacent to his nightclub. He confiscated their passports to keep them in sight, and told them that he wasn't going to sign a contract with them or pay them US $1,000 a month, but would instead share profits with them on a 50-50 basis.
"Since I hadn't worked in striptease before, I didn't have the necessary clothes. Sos arranged for them and loaned them to me and my friends, claiming that they were part of our debt to him. Besides that, he said that transport and other costs in bringing us to Armenia had amounted to US $3,000, and demanded that we leave the money we make at the nightclub, saying that he wouldn't let us stop working for him until we had repaid the amount in full. I refused to work under these conditions and demanded to be sent back home, but Sos refused. I was forced to work from August 2 to November 15. On November 15, police officers moved me and the other girls out of Argishti Hotel and took us to a police station," reads the police statement written by Viktorya, a minor. Sos knew for sure that Viktorya was a minor, but had asked that it not be made public.
On November 18, the office of the Prosecutor General filed criminal charges against Sos Meliksetyan, director of the Eliza Nightclub, owned by Meljulsan ltd., as per section 2 of Article 132 of the Criminal Code - human trafficking.
All four Ukrainians have declared in their statements that they were denied to right to move about freely and were forced to work without pay as strippers, thus being subjected to sexual exploitation.
Artyom Pehlevanyan, the manager of Meljuslan ltd.'s Argishti Hotel and Eliza Night Club and a witness in the case, has confirmed that the girls were under constant supervision while at the hotel. "The striptease performers invited from Ukraine stayed without their passports at the hotel adjacent to the night club, under supervision, which was carried out by Artyom Ghazaryan, Garik Manukyan and Jora Smbatyan, under orders from the director. Sos ordered me to take the money the girls made at the end of each day and record it as part of the payment against their debts."
"As Sos ordered, I watched over the girls, along with Garik Manukyan and Jora Smbatyan. The girls were not allowed to leave the premises of the company unaccompanied, in order to prevent them from escaping," read the statement from witness Artyom Ghazaryan, who worked as a guard in the nightclub and hotel.
Sos Meliksetyan has pleaded guilty in court. The Ararat Marz Court of First Instance has sentenced him to two years of correctional labor with a 15% forfeit of profit.
Decisions were also made regarding filing charges against Ashot Hovsepyan on numerous points of Article 132 of the Criminal Code, launching an investigation, and seeking the imprisonment of guilty parties.
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