YEREVAN — Russia has extradited to Armenia a notorious Armenian businessman and former parliamentarian wanted by law-enforcement authorities in Yerevan on robbery charges.
Levon Sargsyan held a seat in the Armenian parliament from 1999-2012. He officially represented former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) in the National Assembly from 2007-2012.
Sargsyan, 52, had been on the run since the National Security Service (NSS) accused him in October 2018 of masterminding a 2008 robbery at the Yerevan house of Armen Avetisyan, a former chief of the Armenian customs service. The NSS claimed that he 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 indicted Sargsyan over the robbery six months after the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” in the country.
Sargsyan was reportedly arrested by the Russian police near Moscow last November. Armenian prosecutors said in March this year that Russian authorities have agreed to extradite the man better known to Armenians as “Alraghatsi Lyov.”
According to a spokesman for Prosecutor-General Artur Davtyan, Sargsyan was flown to Yerevan late on Thursday.He was escorted by Armenian police officers and arrested at Yerevan airport, the official, Gor Abrahamyan, announced on Facebook.
Armenian media 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 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.
Sargsyan is one of several former senior Armenian officials who moved to Russia after the 2018 regime change to avoid prosecution on various charges. Moscow has not extradited most of them.
The fugitives include two other wealthy and influential members of Armenia’s former leadership who had earned the HHK many votes in elections. One of them, Mihran Poghosyan, is the former chief of a state body enforcing judicial acts, while the other, Ruben Hayrapetyan, used to head the Football Federation of Armenia. Both men are facing corruption charges denied by them.