On the Run: Suspected of Organizing “Hit” on Armenian Official, Son of Famous Armenian Entrepreneur, Owns Businesses in Czech Republic
Albert Yeritsyan, a famous businessman in Armenia mostly known for the ‘Father and Son Yeritsyans Supermarket’ in Yerevan, opened a business in the Czech Republic ten years ago. That business is now run by the family of Robert Yeritsyan, son of Albert.
The Yeritsyan family businesses in Armenia took a nose dive some years back and many were sold off. A factor which played a large role in the downturn was the alleged role of Robert Yeritsyan in the attempted murder of Gagik Khachatryan, then the president of the State Revenue Committee. After the incident, Robert disappeared from sight. Hetq, along with its Czech partners, have researched the property owned by the Yeritsyans in the Czech Republic.
From Businessman to District Leader
Albert Yeritsyan (born 1950) was a fairly successful businessman. In 1996 he established Father and Son Yeritsyans Ltd. and became the official representative of the Swiss company Nestle that same year. The main engine for Yeritsyan’s company was the supermarket bearing the same name that continues to operate in Yerevan’s Arabkir neighborhood.
The Yeritsyans are also registered as residing in the same district. In 1995, just one year before opening the first recognized ‘supermarket’ in Armenian, Yeritsyan founded Atenk Ltd. which has been manufacturing meat products ever since.
On September 7, 2008, Albert Yeritsyan was elected Arabkir district leader. But the election was marred with infractions and the press also reported that bribes were handed out by Yeritsyan, also known as Shtirlits Abo. Blood was also split on election day when Mher Kerobyan, the proxy of Yeritsyan’s opponent Hovhannes Shahinyan (then the incumbent district leader) was knifed. Albert Yeritsyan denied rumors circulating at the time that his son Robert wielded the knife. Later, the police reported that two individuals shown up at the police station and claimed they had gotten into an argument with Kerobyan and that a fight broke out. One of the individuals was Tigran Tadevosyan, Robert Yeritsyan’s driver. When members of the National Security Service (NSS) went to Yeritsyan’s campaign office that same night to arrest Robert, he had already fled.
Artak, Albert Yeritsyan’s other son, was embroiled in a scandal of his own. In June 2009, the Armenian press reported that Artak, in a drunken stupor, started to shove people at the Griar Restaurant and had opened fire before leaving. One of the Griar owners was Grigory Haroutyunyan, a former deputy director of the NSS. Haroutyunyan’s cousin Mihran Poghosyan (the head of Armenia’s Compulsory Enforcement Service) called Artak in for questioning. That encounter ended in a fight and Artak was beaten. Artak went to seek the help of his father. They all returned to Poghosyan’s office, this time with a few bodyguards, and Artak was beaten again. It’s interesting that Albert Yeritsyan and Mihran Poghosyan are related.
This fact was even raised by Hunan Poghosyan, who then headed the Police Department’s Organized Crime Division. “The individuals are relatives and I don’t think there can be a serious incident between them. It was checked out and the incident wasn’t proven,” said Hunan Poghosyan. Essentially, this event was also swept under the rug.
Attempted Murder of Gagik Khachatryan
Robert Yeritsyan (born 1974) was again involved in a scandal in the spring of 2009. On May 23, an attempt was made to kill Gagik Khachatryan, then president of Armenia’s State Revenue Committee. According to a NSS statement, unknown assailants planted a homemade remote-controlled bomb at a construction site on 19 Teryan Street (the address of Gagik Khachatryan).The bomb was discovered by a security guard at the site.
The National Security Service (NSS) reported that eight individuals, including ringleader Gagik Matevosyan, nicknamed "Muscle Gago" were arrested as suspects. Mr. Matevosyan served in the Interior Ministry from 1992-1997 as a deputy commander of a special unit attached to the interior troops. A search of Matevosyan’s house revealed a large cache of arms and ammunition explosive materials, and remote control devices. Also uncovered in an adjacent building was an underground chemical laboratory used to make explosives and poisonous materials.
Further investigation revealed that orders for the hit were given by Robert Yeritsyan (who worked at Armenia’s Customs Committee until April 23, 2008 as the head of the anti-contraband division before resigning), to Rafael Masoumyan (Singer Afon) with a payment of $150,000.
Gagik Khachatryan served as deputy president at the Customs Committee from 2001-2008. From April-June of 2008 (after Serzh Sargsyan became president) when Yeritsyan resigned, he was the acting president and became the customs head in June. In August, when the customs and the tax agencies were joined, he became the chief of the State Revenue Committee.
Mr. Masoumyan absconded to Georgia where he went undercover. A unit of the Armenian NSS detached to Georgia, along with local special forces, found and arrested Mr. Masoumyan at Tbilisi airport preparing to board a flight Vienna. An international warrant for the arrest of Robert Yeritsyan was issued.
In the criminal case, it was noted that Yeritsyan had borne a grudge against Khachatryan when the latter slighted him at a consultative session attended by President Sargsyan. The NSS, carrying out the preliminary investigation against “Muscle Gage’s” gang, drafted a long list of charges, including preparing ‘hits’ against Robert Kocharyan (Armenia’s second president) and Serzh Sargsyan.
Gagik Matevosyan (middle) and other defendants in the courtroom
On October 14, 2011, Yerevan’s Kentron and Nork-Marash District Court sentenced Gagik Matevosyan to 14 years, Rafael Masoumyan to 14, Artak Ghoukasyan to 11, Vazgen Karapetyan to 13, Arayik Voskanyan to 12, and Grigor Grigoryan to 7.
The decline of the Yeritsyan business empire in Armenia
After the unsuccessful attempt on the life of the official, the businesses of the Yeritsyans started to crash. Albert Yeritsyan lost his position after the mayoralty of Yerevan became an elected post and district leaders were nominated. In June 2009 Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglaryan replaced Yeritsyan with Hamlet Margaryan. The distaste of the authorities towards Yeritsyan was clear. This was a big turnabout from a few months ago when the ruling Republican Party was backing Yeritsyan, an independent opponent of Republican Party nominee H. Shahinyan in the district election.
In September 2009, Father and Son Yeritsyans Ltd. requested that the government extend the deadline to pay VAT on equipment imported to construct a new bread factory. The government had declared that it would assist the business sector in order to overcome the financial crisis. In particular, the government said VAT paymenton imported goods of more 300 million AMD would be extended by three years. The Yeritsyans claimed that the equipment imported from the Czech Republic was worth 4 million Euros. Armenia’s ministries of the economy and of finances appraised the project, along with the state revenue committee. It was no surprise when the project was rejected and was evaluated at half the 4 billion. Yeritsyans’ lawyer derided the government’s arguments as baseless, noting that Czech banks and insurances companies gave the project a thumb-up.
Sometime after the attempted murder of G. Khachatryan, Major General Zaven Nanyan (Chief of NSS’s Department of Maintaining Constitutional Order and the Fight Against Terrorism) was dismissed. It was said that Nanyan’s performance at the post was unsatisfactory.
Reports appeared in the Armenian press that Albert Yeritsyan had been forced to sell the Father and Son Yeritsyans supermarket. The businessman responded that he’d never sell the business bearing the family name. In October 2009, the supermarket was leased to Simao Ltd. which runs the business until today. Other Yeritsyan businesses also soon went under. Yeritsyan sold the Atenk sausage factory to the Adamyan family (Adamioum Ltd.), which imports beverages to Armenia.
Yeritsyan sold his three bread factories to Silva Hambardzumyan, who told the newspaper Haykakan Zhamanak that the factories had been placed as collateral at VTB Bank against a $3.5 million loan. When Yeritsyan couldn’t pay, the businesswoman purchased them
Hambardzumyan also claimed that she also assumed the obligation to pay 6.5 million Euros for new equipment ordered from the Czech Republic. Thus, the price of the entire transaction was around 12 million Euros. Moreover, Hambardzumyan said that the equipment was kept for a long time at Armenian customs and that she finally got it through after buying the Yeritsyan business.
She also said that she wanted to buy the supermarket that had been placed as collateral with Byblos Bank and Promety Bank, but that Yeritsyan said the market had been leased out to pay back his debts. Hambardzumyan denied that she had a business partner (identified as the ex-wife of former Artsakh president Arkady Ghoukasyan) when buying the Yeritsyan bread factories.
After the factories were sold, the bread now carried the label of a new company – Kalach. (This company, founded by Hambardzumyan in 2010 went bankrupt in 2014).
Yeritsyan Holdings in Czech Republic
Jeritsyan Holding s.r.o. was founded on April 12, 2006 in Prague. Its business interests were described as the rental of private property (apartments, offices, commercial space) and providing various manufacturing and trade services.
The company was founded by Albert and Robert Yeritsyan, with 80% and 20% respectively. In 2007, Artak Yeritsyan joined the company. Lilit Asatryan, Robert’s wife, joined in 2011. Today, Lilit owns 40% of company shares, Robert Yeritsyan owns 40%, and their son Albert Jr. owns 20%. The company’s charter capital is 200,000 Czech koruna (US$8,430). Olga Mitryukova, a Russian citizen residing in Prague issued legal authority by the Yeritsyans, manages the Yeritsyan businesses in the Czech Republic.
Jeritsyan Holding was first registered in Prague’s Kostomlatská Street. The address was changed three times and is now registered at Chotěšovská 678/2.
The Yeritsyans own no property at the above address, as evidenced by the Czech Property Cadastre. However, two Armenians reside there – Naira Ardenyan and Mher Gamdjyan.
Of note is the fact that in 2009 the Yeritsyans issued a legal proxy to Magda Gamdjyan (a Czech citizen who lives in Prague not far from Chotěšovská) to manage the Yeritsyan business company. The fact that Mher and Magda are related is proven by their joint company (Nara.Co s.r.o) that is registered at the same Chotěšovská 678/2 address. Their partner-shareholder is Naira Ardenyan.
Even though the Yeritsyan company is registered at the address owned by another person, it owns property in Prague – a modest private house on Tálinská Street in the Kyje neighborhood.
1026/67 Tálinská Street
This Czech Property Cadastre document verifies that the parcel of land (comprised of lots 993 and 994) registered under the number 3282 are owned by the Yeritsyan company. The address 1026/67 Tálinská Street is located on the property. The private house is actually a restaurant, something which is difficult to make at first glance since the entry is from the backyard or near the lake (U Rybníka Street)
The name of the restaurant is called U Eriky - Restaurace Se Zahrádkou (restaurant in the gardens). The restaurant’s website says that the restaurant used to be located a little way off on U Rybníka Street. At 1026/67 Tálinská Street was located the U Švejka restaurant. (See 3D photo below).
Former restaurant U Švejka and the new interior of U Eriky
So, the Yeritsyans have leased their plot of land and are receiving rent.
Why has the Czech Republic refused to extradite Robert Yeritsyan, wanted by Armenian authorities?
In October 2014, the press wrote that Robert Yeritsyan was arrested in the Czech Republic. Armenia’s Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) told the newspaper Haykakan Zhamanak that upon learning of the whereabouts of Robert Yeritsyan it had contacted Czech authorities and requested that the man, charged with inciting the organizing of the attempted murder of a state official, be extradited to Armenia.
The Prague Civil Court rejected the extradition petition. Essentially, the rejection can be tied to the situation revolving around Andranik Soghoyan, a “criminal by law”.
Soghoyan, nicknamed “Zap”, was born in Leninakan in 1968. He was crowned with the moniker by another “legal criminal” from Gyumri, Nigal Barseghyan. Soghoyan lived in Moscow from 1999 and then moved to Sochi. He was then deported to Armenia in 2007 after having been found using a fake Russian passport. He used his connections to then flee to Prague.
Andranik Soghoyan, according to idnes.cz, ordered the assassination of businessman Arman Aharonyan, also a mafia member according to the website. Aharonyan had refused to pay $500,000 to the general criminal budget “obshchak”. Timur Tretyakov, the hired hitman, was not able to murder Aharonyan. Instead he stabbed an Armenian and mistakenly killed a Czech. Later, Tretyakov was sentenced to life, but the Czech Supreme Court dropped the sentence to 22 years. In March 2009, Zap and some fifty supporters were arrested, but the Czech court freed Zap in October 2010, arguing that the testimony against him wasn’t credible. The prosecution, taken aback, appealed the decision, and in April 2011 the supreme court sent the case for further examination. Finally, on February 28, 2013, the Prague Municipal Court sentenced A. Soghoyan to 22 years in-absentia for murder and extortion. A warrant for his arrest was issued in October 2014. At the time, Zap was in Armenia. Armenian law enforcement arrested him that same month and the court decided to detain him. However, in January 2015, the detention order wasn’t extended and the criminal was released from jail.
The prime ministers of Armenia and the Czech Republic had even discussed the issue of extraditing Zap to the Czech Republic, but nothing happened. Zap is a citizen of Armenia and Armenian law doesn’t permit handing over its citizens to other countries. However, the Armenian justice system could have carried out the Czech court’s sentence in Armenia, as has been done in other cases.
In essence, Robert Yeritsyan and Andranik Soghoyan, both sought by Armenia and the Czech Republic, were arrested around the same time. And if Armenian citizen Soghoyan couldn’t be extradited and, instead, Armenia could have carried on the Czech court’s sentence on its own territory, which it didn’t, then the Czechs, having Yeritsyan, being sought for not less scandalous case, refused to assist Armenian law enforcement. Perhaps, this was a reply to Armenia and Armenian authorities.