George Baghoumian Was Serving Pre-Trial Dention: Lawyer Cries Top-Level Conspiracy
65 year-old American-Armenian businessmanGeorge Baghoumian died in the Nubarshen Detention Facility on April 25.
Baghoumian, who was charged with tax evasion and possession of an illegal weapon, had been in pre-trial detention in Nubarashen since October 27, 2012.
The Baghoumian family, originally from Iran, had relocated to the United States. Levon Baghoumian, George’s father, relocated to Armenia in the early 1990s and supplied material assistance to Armenians fighting in the Artsakh War. He had set up an electrical battery factory and supplied the army with the devices. After his death in 1997, George took over the family business.
Serzho Baghoumian, George’s brother, told Hetq that he had serious health problems. In 2004, he suffered a heart attack, was hypertensive and suffered from diabetes.
There are still no findings as to the specific cause of George’s death.
Lawyer Moushegh Shoushanyan took on his defense in February of this year. By that time the courts had examined motions to prolong his pre-trial detention. On February 22, 2012, Shoushanyan argued that there was no legal justification to keep holding his client and that such a move went against all international norms.
The lawyer also argued that Armenian detention facilities could not guarantee the health of inmates.
Nevertheless, the courts approved motions to extend Baghoumian’s detention in February and again in April.
“I stated that if the courts approve the motion, they would simply be writing his death certificate, because George’s health was getting worse,” Shoushanyan told a press conference today in Yerevan.
The lawyer added that Nubarashen officials failed to move his client to a hospital, which was their obligation. He says there is only one medical staffer at Nubarshen for 1,200 inmates.
The weapon that law enforcement found in George’s house had been obtained by his father. It was for self-defense purposes after the family’s property in Etchmiadzin had been robbed. The gun was given to the guards.
Lawyer Shoushanyan stated that while the gun was illegal, no crimes had been committed with it.
As to the tax evasion charges, the 16 million AMD in question involved the operations of Gold Energy, a company owned by George Baghoumian. Along with penalties and interest, the entire amount allegedly not paid was 41 million AMD.
Shoushanyan stated that he had requested credible substantiation from officials, but that nothing was ever produced.
The lawyer argues that George Baghoumian was detained as “punishment” and that the rest was a smokescreen.
|Serzho Baghoumian, attorney Moushegh Shoushanyan|
Serzho Baghoumian, George’s brother who just arrived from the U.S., claims that Edgar Antonyan, an inspector with Armenia’s State Revenue Commission, demanded a 10 million AMD ($25,000) bribe to drop the tax evasion charges.
“I didn’t have the money to pay him,” Serzho said, adding that it’s a pity that a person’s life is put in danger out of personal greed.
Lawyer Shoushanyan said that George never got involved in the accounting for the business and that it was handled by Vahan Amiryan, a former member of the Ashtarak Tax Department. Tax evasion charges were brought about on the basis of Amiryan’s testimony.
Another person charged in the case was Karen Grigoryan, director of a company called Sakren Ltd. Grigoryan was charged with a number of business violations including contraband and tax evasion. Grigoryan also testified against George Baghoumian.
Grigoryan was never given pre-trial detention however and merely promised not to leave his place of residence. He later fled to Russia.
Lawyer Shoushanyan says there is a clear plot to seize the property of George Baghoumian, but that he can’t put his finger on who is pulling the strings.
A few months back George Baghoumian telephoned Hetq and described the fabricated plot against him. He promised to provide Hetq with important documents backing up his claims.
Two years ago, George Baghoumian told Hetq that he had been working with the RA Ministry of Defense via a company owned by a top army official and that the company in question had created a number of problems. It seems Baghoumian had been supplying the army with batteries but that another company had been given the job.
George Baghoumian dealt with Arva Yerkir Ltd, a company founded by General Vardan Avetisyan.
According to lawyer Shoushanyan, George Baghoumian had take Arva Yerkir to court for not paying a fair price for the batteries it was being supplied with. A lower court had rejected the suit. An appeal had been filed but a decision is still pending
Shoushanyan says that the Armenian government bears full responsibility for the death of George Baghoumian and that the family is demanding a criminal investigation.
He stated that the judges who extended Baghoumian’s pre-trial detention must be charged with gross malfeasance as well as Nubarashen officials who failed to ensure the proper medical conditions for his client.
Shoushanyan also called for the resignation of the Minister of Justice.
P.S. - Prior to the publication of this article, Hetq tried to contact government prosecutor Antonyan to get his reaction to the charge that he had demanded a 10 million AMD bribe. Several calls were made to his office, but no one answered. When we finally reached him, the prosecutor labeled the charge as fallacious. Antonyan told Hetq that Serzho Baghoumian had only visited him the one time. Antonyan alleges that Serzho promised to pay the taxes owed by his brother. “I never demanded a bribe and I could never do so,” said Antonyan
Photo 1: George Baghoumian