MOSCOW — A notorious businessman and former parliamentarian who had close ties to Armenia’s former leadership has been arrested in Russia one year after being charged with organizing an armed robbery in Yerevan.
According to the Armenian police, Levon Sargsyan was tracked down and detained on Thursday in Zelenograd, a town 47 kilometers northwest of Moscow. A police statement issued on Friday said his arrest was the result of “large-scale” joint investigative actions taken by Russian and Armenian law-enforcement bodies.
Sargsyan, who is better known to Armenians as “Alraghatsi Lyov,” held a seat in the Armenian parliament from 1999-2012. The 51-year-old businessman officially represented former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) in the National Assembly from 2007-2012.
Sargsyan has been on the run since another Armenian law-enforcement body, the National Security Service (NSS), indicted him in October 2018. The NSS said that he masterminded the 2008 robbery at a house of Armen Avetiyan, a former chief of the Armenian customs service. It claimed that Sargsyan hired an armed gang to break into the house and steal cash and precious items kept there because of his personal feud with Avetisyan.
Ten alleged members of the gang were arrested, tried and given lengthy prison sentences in 2011.
The NSS prosecuted Sargsyan in connection with the robbery six months after a popular uprising that toppled Serzh Sarkisian. It searched his house and claimed to have found large quantities of weapons, including an assault rifle and rocket-propelled grenades, and ammunition there.
Armenian media outlets for years linked Sargsyan to various scandals, violent incidents and electoral fraud mostly reported in a Yerevan district where he lived and held sway. In 2009, for example, a female journalist said that the then influential parliamentarian swore at her and had his bodyguards physically attack her at a polling station in the Armenian capital.
Sargsyan denied those claims. He avoided prosecution even after investigators effectively implicated him in a police cover-up of a murder committed in 2010. A police general was arrested and jailed for that crime in 2012.
The Armenian police now seem confident that Russian authorities will extradite Sargsyan to Armenia. “The issue of his extradition is being solved right now,” said the police statement.
As recently as in August this year, Russian prosecutors declined to extradite Mihran Poghosyan, another fugitive former Armenian official who was also closely linked to Serzh Sarkisian and the former ruling HHK.
Poghosyan was detained in the northern Russian region of Karelia in April shortly after Armenian law-enforcement authorities brought corruption charges against him. Poghosyan, who denies the charges as politically motivated, is understood to have been released from Russian custody a few weeks later.