The article is based on a joint investigation carried out by Der Spiegel and the local MDR TV and Radio Company.
The article contains the following facts:
- One person was wounded in a shootout between Armenian criminal groups in a casino in the city of Erfurt, the state of Thuringia in 2014. In 2017, one of those involved in the incident was remanded, while four others were conditionally released.
- The investigation of the armed incident revealed the existence of Armenian criminal clans in Germany. Following the 2014 shootout, several vehicles and a restaurant were burned down in the state of Thuringia, a group of 15 people attacked a restaurant owned by an Armenian man in Erfurt, and mass brawls occurred among Armenians in the town of Göttingen and in the district of Eichsfeld.
- Immediately after the Erfurt incident, the The Bundeskriminalamt (BKA – Federal Criminal Police Office), six state criminal investigation offices, has launched a large-scale operation codenamed FATIL (Fight Against Thieves in Law). FATIl is considered to be one of the largest operations against organized crime in Germany. The article refers to a 19-page confidential report by BKA on the operation.
- The BTK report concludes that the Armenian mafia ‘really exists’ in Germany, possesses ‘considerable financial resources’ together with other criminal groups from Russia and Eurasian region and poses ‘a threat to the rule of law’.
- The report also mentions that the Armenian mafia is engaged in organized theft, robbery, cigarette smuggling and arranging migrant arrivals in Germany on a paid basis. The document claims the criminals are also engaged in money-laundering by investing in real estate in Germany and Western Europe. It is also noted that most criminals enter into a fake marriage with local women for the purpose of legally residing in Germany.
- The report states that FATIL operation had revealed illegal ties of the famous Armenian boxers – Karo Murat and Arthur Abraham – residing in Germany, with criminal groups. During the Erfurt shootout, Kara Murat’s car and cellphone were spotted on the scene. The cellphones of some participants of the armed incident were registered at the address of the company Abraham Boxing GmbH, owned by Arthur Abraham. He refused to answer the questions of an investigative journalist group, while Karo Murat dismissed the allegations as “fictitious.”
-The report says 14 criminal cases were initiated in a course of FATIL operation and 42 people were investigated for financial reasons. The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND – Federal Intelligence Service) and Europol were also involved in FATIL operation.
- It is said that the operation was ineffective as law-enforcement agencies failed to collect enough evidence to prove the abovementioned facts. The reason for the failure of the operation is the fact that criminal groups operate solely and communicate via closed messenger systems, and that law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to investigate and they do not have the necessary software to track criminals’ smartphones. Because of lack of evidence, procedures have not dared to open a criminal case under Article 129 (organized crime) of the Criminal Code of the Federal Republic of Germany.
- Nevertheless, the BKA report considers it necessary to take joint measures at the European level as criminal bosses and thieves in law are settled and networked throughout Europe.
- The report also states that Armenia’s ambassador to Germany Ashot Smbatian has ties with Armenian criminal groups. According to the statement released by BKA in 2008, Smbatian, then a simple embassy employee, was suspected of organizing illegal migrant arrivals in Germany and was a member of criminal groups in Yerevan.
- Moreover, it is said that in 2005 the Berlin prosecutor’s office launched an investigation against Smbatian on charges of “money laundering” after large sums of money were repeatedly transferred on his account in one of the German banks. Smbatian then responded to the accusations that "transfers from abroad are part of the general experience of the Armenian embassy," and the investigation was suspended. Smbatian was also investigated for his alleged contacts with the daughter of Armenia’s former minister and businessman. However, this investigation did not produce any results.
- The article says that Smbatian, through his lawyer, denied all accusations. It is reported that after the death of Armenia’s then-ambassador to Germany in 2014, Smbatian was unexpectedly appointed as ambassador. During his tenure as ambassador, Smbatian held meetings with the interior ministries of several federal states. During a meeting at the Federal Ministry of the Interior in 2017, Smbatian expressed concern on a possible negative impact of Armenian mafia on the visa facilitation issue between the two countries and offered assistance in the fight against Armenian mafia.
- According to the article, there are two versions of Smbatian’s fate after the change of power in Armenia. Some say that Smbatian is close to the former Sargysan administration, and he will be recalled in the near future, while others claim he managed to “survive” the change of power, and as evidence, he has recently been appointed as ambassador to Liechtenstein.
- The report also focuses on the German-Armenian Forum and its possible links with the Armenian mafia (Note: the founder and chairman of the mentioned organization is Bundestag member Albert Albert Weiler. He is declared as persona non grata by Azerbaijan. Albert Weiler was remembered with a scandal he caused on the eve of German Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Azerbaijan). The German-Armenian Forum, established during Smbatian’s tenure as ambassador, is one of the most important lobbying organizations of Armenia. Bundestag member Albert Weiler and his representatives, an employee of the Berlin Senate, an employee of the German Foreign Ministry, ambassador Smbatian and his wife are among the 34 founders of the organization.
When asked about the abovementioned allegations against Smbatian, Bundestag member Albert Weiler was surprised and said he was unable to image that he was acting illegally, but that could change his “imagination.” Based on the protection of personal data, Weiler rejected to answer the question whether boxer Murat is a member of the Forum.
A documentary, entitled “Godfathers in Germany: Armenian mafia and thieves in law,” will be aired on MDR TV channel at 20:45 (local time) on November 11, 2018.