Hayrapetyan Was Serving a Controversial Prison Sentence
MOSCOW (A.W.)—Armenian businessman and philanthropist Levon Hayrapetyan, who contributed tens of millions of dollars to causes in Armenia, Artsakh, and the Armenian Diaspora, passed away in a Russian prison overnight on Oct. 18.
According to Hayrapetyan’s daughter Angelika Hayrapetyan, the 68-year-old died in a prison cell in Mordovia.
Hayrapetyan’s health had been in decline for the past few years. In July 2014, he was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) upon his arrival at a Moscow airport. Hayrapetyan had gone to Moscow from Yerevan for medical treatment.
Hayrapetyan’s arrest and subsequent detention stemmed from suspicions of collusion and embezzlement around the 2009 sale of the oil company Bashneft. He was formally charged with receiving a $50 million fee as part of the Bashneft sale and was put under house arrest, all while he maintained his innocence and denied any wrongdoing. He was released in Sept. 2015 after the maximum period of house arrest had expired.
In April of last year, Hayrapetyan was sentenced to a four-year prison term by a Moscow district court on charges of embezzlement. Hayrapetyan was found guilty of defrauding the mother of former Russian senator Igor Izmestyev—who is serving imprisonment for murder—of $700,000. The court rejected an earlier motion for a seven-year prison term by the prosecution.
Hayrapetyan’s arrests and convictions are widely believed to have been a part of a politically-motivated campaign against prominent Russian businessmen. Following his 2016 conviction, factions of the National Assembly of Artsakh, as well as several prominent individuals and organizations in and out of Armenia, issued a statement urging Russian law enforcement bodies urging Hayrapetyan’s release.
Hayrapetyan—said to be a citizen of Armenia, Russia, and the United States—was born in Vank in Artsakh’s Martakert district in 1949, where he invested millions of dollars improving the village’s infrastructure and restoring the Gandzasar Cathedral (10-13th c.). He attended Yerevan State University and Moscow State University, after which he spent more than a decade working in the oil sector in Siberia. Hayrapetyan is believed to have amassed his fortune in the Russian energy privatization deals in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Hairapetian is perhaps best known for spearheading a mass wedding in Artsakh, which he co-sponsored with fellow Russian-Armenian businessmen. Some 700 couples were married in the ceremony, in an effort to encourage an increase in Artsakh’s population. Hayrapetyan subsequently became a godfather to 250 newborns.
“Being a patriot and a faithful son of his people, Levon Hayrapetyan for many years carried out many charitable programs in Artsakh, contributing to the development of his home country. Strengthening the Armenian-Russian friendly relations was one of the main aspects of his activities,” read a part of the statement, which cited the businessman’s deteriorating health. Less than two weeks after his conviction, Hayrapetyan lost consciousness in a Moscow prison and was given emergency medical attention.
On Oct. 18, Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan sent a letter of condolences to Hayrapetyan’s family, which described him as a “great patriot and philanthropist,” and a “devoted son of [the Armenian] people.”
“On behalf of the Artsakh people, authorities and myself I express my deep condolences and sympathies to the family and relatives, compatriots, and friends of the deceased and wish them patience and fortitude. The memory of Levon Hayrapetyan will always remain bright in the memory of generations,” read a part of Sahakyan’s letter.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tigran Balayan described Hayrapetyan as a “great son of the Armenian people” and an “exemplary patriot” on Twitter. “May he rest in peace. We will never forget Levon Gurgenovich and his legacy,” Balayan wrote in Russian according to RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
According to Hayrapetyan’s latest wishes, he will be buried in Moscow, next to his parents, at his family tomb.