A citizen of the UK, Roy Harrison was unable to purchase property when he moved to Armenia nearly 20 years ago. So he asked his co-worker and translator, Zhirayr Zabounyan, to buy property in Tzaghkadzor in his name. Despite investing over 60 million AMD and living in the house all this time, the UK national was unable to prove in court that the house belongs to him. Zabounyan effectively claimed the property after all this time.
Speaking to Hetq in Russian, Harrison said how upon seeing Tzaghkadzor, loving the terrain and nature, he wanted to buy some land and build a house. But since he's not a citizen of Armenia, he asked Zhirayr Zabounyan to write up the paperwork in his name. By Harrison's account, in 2000, he purchased the partially constructed house on 3 Orbeli Street in Tzaghkadzor in Zabounyan's name, along with the adjacent land, which belonged to Armen Mouradyan and his mother. Harrison worked as the director of the Huntsman Building Products plant in Yerevan, where Zabounyan was the deputy director.
Harrison claims he invested 60 million AMD to demolish the partially built house and build a new one, where he lived. He has always had the original copy of the property deed and the house keys. In 2006, Harrison asked Zabounyan to transfer the property to his name as he had acquired special residency status in Armenia and, according to law, could now own property. Zabounyan refused. In 2008, after being in the UK for a short period of time, Harrison returned to Armenia and found he couldn't enter his home — the locks had been changed. His neighbors informed him that Zabounyan accompanied by police officers broke the lock.
The British national appealed to the Armenian president's office, which forwarded his appeal to the police. The Armenian police replied, saying that claims that police employees participated in breaking locks were not substantiated. Then he received a request in writing saying that Zabounyan is asking him to vacate his home. From this point on, one court process after another began, but not having a written contract with Zabounyan, Harrison was unable to prove in Armenia's courts that the house belongs to him. The only written proof was former owner Armen Mouradyan's statement that he sold the house to Roy Harrison; however, also included in the case was his mother Garanik Mouradyan's written statement that the house was sold not to Roy Harrison but to Zhirayr Zabounyan.
In conversation with Hetq, Harrison says his only mistake was trusting Zhirayr, which is why he never formalized their arrangement with any official documents. He even asked the court to use a lie detector so that he can prove the house is his. After losing this case, Harrison and his attorney, Armen Oumrshatyan, attempted to submit a claim regarding the 60 million AMD spent on construction; however, the lower court refused the claim on the basis that there is no contract for the work carried out.
Harrison's attorney informed Hetq that the court examined only 4 out of the 22 witnesses and issued its verdict. "If the court heard also the other witnesses, it would've been convinced that those people worked on the house, did construction work, and were paid by Roy Harrison," Oumrshatyan said. Harrison mentioned that he hired Molokans, individual tradesmen and laborers, with whom, naturally, he didn't sign any contracts. He paid them based on verbal agreements. "I didn't consider such things then because I didn't think that my house would be seized from me one day. This couldn't have happened in the UK. There's an English saying that goes 'My home is my castle.' For us, a home is sacred. In England, people trust each other and there is no abuse of trust. I trusted Zhirayr," he said.
The Civil Court of Appeal today also refused Oumrshatyan and his client's claim to oblige Zabounyan to pay Harrison for the 60 million spent on the house.
Zabounyan's attorney, Hayk Osepyan, told Hetq: "I find that the demand of obtaining money from my client is unfounded. I think this was a means to once again try to get money from Zhirayr Zabounyan, which failed."
Harrison informed Hetq that he's not preparing to leave Armenia; he lives here with his wife and is preparing to make investments. Asked if he's not afraid of making new investments, he said, "Well, not everyone is bad, right?"