False Charges?: Documents suggest Buzand Street attorney’s arrest was unwarranted

Counsel for jailed attorney Vahe Grigoryan have released documents that give grounds to accusations that Grigoryan’s arrest was fabricated by authorities who want to silence the attorney’s representation of Buzand Street clients in their effort to resist eviction.

As previously reported here, Grigoryan has been the legal face of claims brought by residents in the urban renewal district of Yerevan who say they are being illegally relocated or insufficiently compensated for moving. (See Jailed for Defense of Justice)

Grigoryan has been in jail since early September, charge with fraud and extortion.

The Prosecutor General’s Office brought the charges in relation to Grigoryan’s representation of a client two years ago, during which the attorney recovered over-paid taxes for Krein LTD, a Russian-based company.

Grigoryan is being charged with taking the money, however documents released by his attorneys show that he was acting on behalf of Krein director Gevorg Hakobyan, who lives in the United States.

In a document prepared in July and certified by the State Secretary of California, Hakboyan states that, on Grigoryan’s insistence, he sent documents to Yerevan with a corresponding seal and signature authorizing Grigoryan to receive the money.

In a notarized statement taken in California, Hakobyan states that Grigoryan later transferred the pay-back to Hakobyan’s US account – minus Grigoryan’s agreed upon fee.

Per Hakobyan’s request through the Ministry of Finance, Grigoryan received about $41,000 for Hakobyan. From that amount, the attorney took about $180 to cover filing charges he had paid, and about $730 in attorney fees.

Grigoryan has also been charged with forging Hakobyan’s signature. Hakobyan himself says those charges are unfounded.

Attorneys representing Grigoryan say documents supporting Grigoryan’s innocence were sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office in July.

ArmeniaNow attempted to learn if the PGO had included the documents in its investigation. Press Secretary of the Prosecutor’s Office Gurgen Ambaryan refused to make any comments about the statement, saying that an inquiry is in progress and the data of this inquiry are not subject to publication.

Grigoryan appealed his conviction, but the lower court’s verdict was upheld. He now faces up to 10 years in jail.

Grigoryan’s lawyers say that the judge and prosecutor rejected the statement from California as false.

“If it is false, then they must call to account the State Secretary of California and summon as a witness the state’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask him how his office forged the document,” says lawyer Tigran Atanesyan.

The “Lawyers for Lawyers” international organization (Amsterdam) appealed to the Republic’s Prosecutor General to drop the charges against Grigoryan and release him from custody. It is said in the letter that there are grounds to assume that the charges against Grigoryan were made on the basis of illegally obtained evidence, and that the main evidence is a lie and is obtained through pressure.

The second part of the letter is a reference to testimony from Hakobyan’s father, Alexander, who signed statements saying that Grigoryan had forged Gevorg Hakobyan’s signature. Certain people who participated in the investigation have told ArmeniaNow that Alexander Hakobyan’s signature was obtained by pressure.

It is worth noting that Alexander Hakobyan himself has also been charged with forgery, but is not under arrest.

Prosecutors also say Gevorg Hakobyan’s brother-in-law Tigran Arakelyan also gave evidence implicating Grigoryan.

At a press conference Monday, attorneys for Grigoryan presented statements they say were written to Ombudswoman Larisa Alaverdyan by Alexander Hakobyan and by Arakelyan stating that they had given testimony under duress.

After the letters were sent to the Ombudswoman, Alexander Hakobyan and Arakelyan were again questioned by investigators. Both confirmed their previous testimony.

Meanwhile, Buzand residents have been deprived of their attorney’s services.

Four families in Buzand Street applied to the Ministry of Justice to allow Grigoryan to continue to defend their interests. The Ministry turned down their application.