Armenian Businessman and Philanthropist Levon Hayrapetyan Dies in Russian Prison

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.

Levon Hayrapetian, seen here attending a court hearing in Moscow in 2015, died in a Russian prison on Oct. 18 (Photo: TASS)

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 release Hayrapetyan.

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.

Hayrapetian 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 Sahakyan’s letter, in part.

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.

26 Comments

  1. This basically amounts to state-sponsored murder. I get the feeling that the one thing Mr Hayrapetyan did wrong was he neglected to bribe Putin’s inside circle like all other “Russian Oligarchs”. This is the determinant whether some will get deposed or thrown in jail or some of whom will continue to enjoy tea with Mr Putin. Examples of these are Boris Berezovsky (deposed and dead) and Roman Abramovich (tea drinker).

    • That’s exactly why this happened to my father because he was honest and had pride. This array was unjust and he wanted to make sure they overturned the conviction. He did not agree to be marked guilty and therefore did not take the bribes that’s were offered . He was a man of principal .

  2. Աշխարհի ամենա ազնիվ, բարի և առատաձեռն մարդը մահացավ Ռուսական բանտում:
    Позорное русское “правосудие”!

  3. I will miss my dad greatly . The world got a little bit colder and now that he’s gone .

    Thank you for your kind words . Levon , my dad will forever live in all of us and our children . He will never be forgotten

    • Are you his daughter? Sorry for your loss, but I was happy to see that your dad did wonderful things for Armenia. It is quite obvious your dad did nothing wrong, and on the contrary, he is a hero and patriot for Armenia. Politics are a very dirty business, unfortunately.

    • May he rest in peace! I am sure that he will be remember as a great Armenian and a kind hearted philanthropist

    • My condolences.Your father was a Great Armenian and true Karabaghtsi.My name is Tigran Airapetian and I am related to your family.As a child in Yerevan I took piano classes in your aunt Irina”s class.My fathers name is Alyosha Andranikovich Airapetian.I live in Boston with my wife and two kids for 27 years.Please let me know ,if I can be of any assistance.

    • I was shocked to hear this. Im sorry for your loss Anya. His grandson wont get to know him. That sucks. I miss you two. Be safe. John

    • Hi Anya,

      Is it possible to have your email address please? I would like to contact and ask few question related to your beloved father and his family roots.
      Thank you in advance.

    • Any smaller state has characteristics of a “puppet state”, but I fail to see how this is relevant to the passing away of a great patriot, successful businessman AND citizen of Russia. I’d like to extend my condolences to Anya. What does Armenia’s independence have to do with this? As if America was happy with having Cuba during the Cold War or Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela during our times and wasn’t attempting to make them “puppet states”. Look at America’s behavior worldwide, it may make you change your ridiculous pen name…

    • It seems that some small states are more puppety than others. There are puppet states with some semblance of independence and there are puppet states that take direct orders from another government. Armenia happens to have been guided into the second category by you know who.

  4. Probably the author of this article will wish to bury such inconvenient facts, but Hayrapetyan’s supposed “restoration” of the Gandzasar Cathedral was little more than vandalism, including tearing down a medieval rooftop chapel and cladding its 13th-century monastery walls with shiny modern stonework. The work was done by Hayrapetyan’s own construction company, overseen by his brother. According to architectural expert and head of RAA Samvel Karapetyan, Hayrapetyan’s actions excluded Gandzasar from ever being included in the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites. Like all Armenia’s oligarchs / legal criminals, Hayrapetyan acted as if Armenia was his personal property to do with as he saw fit.

    • Despite the manner with which he “restored” of Gandzasar Cathedral, which can indeed be considered crony capitalism and a form of vandalism, Hayrapetyan was no dount a well intentioned man and a genuine nationalist. The problem with him was that he was also your typical nouveau riche of the post-Soviet period. He was an oligarch who got wealthy during the lawless/criminal years after the Soviet collapse in Russia. Moreover, very typical of the 1990s era oligarchs in Russia, he also had one foot in the West. Needless to say, Russian authorities did not like it one bit, and I don’t blame them. Hayrapetyan’s ties with the Western world was the reason why Moscow did not trust him. Instead of coming to terms with Moscow, Hayrapetyan, like your typically stubborn, emotional and politically illiterate Armenian, made his situation worst.

      But, as I said, for his credit, Hayrapetyan was a great nationalist. So, we need to at least give him credit for that.

      Now, the main reason why Hayrapetyan is being praised on this board is because he was imprisoned by Russian authorities for his illegal activities. In other words, as the title of this article clearly suggests, his imprisonment and subsequent death is meant to be used for Russophobic propaganda purposes by anti-Russian agents imbedded in our communities. And this is the sad (or funny) part of this matter: Had Hayrapetyan been living in Armenia, he would have not been held accountable for any of his wrong doings and he would have been spat upon by the same people who are praising him now.

      What Hayrapetyan life and death teaches us is that Armenians love their criminals and oligarchs – as long as they are not made to suffer from their actions.

  5. May God grant this Great man His eternal
    Peace.i have seen this man getting on his
    Knees on the opera stage in Yerevan to
    Thank God that hi was born to this great Armenian nation.Shame on us and to the
    Politicians to let a man this caliber to be
    Killed in jail.

  6. He helped Armenia and Artsakh in so many ways.He had great ideas and had a deep sympathy for his people specially the young men who leavefor Russia.What a shame that he met a cruel end but I know that he is in a perfect place now and has become immortal.What more can a man want? Bless you and your wonderful memory. Hope your family and loved one find solace Amen

  7. I,an American, attended a wedding hosted by Levon at the Gandzasar Cathedral. I spent 6 days at his home there along with the other guests, all at Levon’s expense. I saw the love the local people had for him and the great works he did for this community out of the goodness of his heart with no personal gain other than the personal satisfaction of having helped his homeland. He gave to this community building water systems and sewer systems and factories to provide employment. He did not take anything. I was there and I know this is true. I wandered around the village and heard from the mouths of the locals.
    Levon and I spoke at length every evening. He told me then that Putin considered him an enemy. Levon fought bravely against the corruption of the Putin regime and feared for his life because of this. Levon was a true patriot for Armenia and Russia. He gave his life in the battle for justice and freedom. May he rest in peace.

  8. @norserunt

    My father had a PhD and a doctrine . He was not an oligarch nor did he act nouvea Riche . He had ties to the West because his family lived there . He sent us to America to get a better education and to be safe above all else . His only tie to the West was us . You have no idea who he was you clearly never met him nor anyone like him. If that’s How you see the world and Armenians I feel for you I really do .

    • Hi Anya,

      Is it possible to have your email address please? I would like to contact and ask few question related to your beloved father and his family roots.
      Thank you in advance.

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