Monday, July 18, 2005

Another pimp in court
[July 11-18, 2005]

On June 20th, in the Court of First Instance of Yerevan’s Nork Marash and Kentron districts, with Judge Vazgen Lalayan presiding, the case of notorious Dubai pimp Lusine Hakobyan (aka Aisha) began. (See also: Dubai is Hell on Earth) Aisha is charged with the organization of prostitution, in accordance with the first part of Article 262 of the Armenian Criminal Code. This charge carries a possible sentence of imprisonment from 1 to 4 years.

Back in September of 2004, a special investigator for the Armenian prosecution, Aristakes Yeremyan, interrogated Aisha in Dubai . Armen Boshnagyan, Senior Prosecutor for the Armenian Prosecution’s Department of Trafficking and Illegal migration, read the statements that Aisha had given in Dubai . In this initial interrogation, she stated that she had several women working as prostitutes for her: “Besides R., V. and Kristine were also working for me,” she said. In court she did not deny her previous statements, but added that she had not been supervising the prostitutes, but was merely helping them. At that time, she also agreed to surrender herself to Armenian authorities within two months, which she did.

According to Aisha, she derived profit from the prostitutes by marking up her charges to them for food, rent, and clothes, but not from acting as their pimp. The four witnesses present in Dubai disputed Aisha’s claim. Three of them insisted that Aisha was their “cruel boss” and that all the money they earned from prostitution they gave to Aisha, because Aisha had their passports and they had no other choice. “In front of my eyes she ripped apart Armine’s passport, and that’s why I was afraid; she was threatening us. I admit I was a prostitute, but Aisha was my boss,” says R, one of the witnesses.

How did these women end up in this situation? R. for one, says that she was looking for a job, and went to Dubai . However, she couldn’t find one, and was thereby forced into the only job available: she became a prostitute. She worked for a time for the pimp named Anna (aka “Bulldog”) until she met Aisha. Later, when her situation became intolerable, R. surrendered to police. She was then deported to Armenia .

Another witness, V., was a student hard-pressed to pay her rent in Armenia . Therefore, she left her studies and decided to look for a job in another country, using her knowledge of computers and English. Through contacts made by her friends, she asked Aisha to send her a visa for Dubai. There, she was met by Aisha, who took her to her home, a rented house; so began her debt to Aisha.

However, V.’s job prospects in Dubai were no better, it seems. “Time went by and I still couldn’t find a job; finally, one day Aisha said ‘I don’t care, whatever you do, bring me money.’ Aisha suggested that I become a prostitute. I was so depressed; I didn’t know how I could do that. But when I first met her, she had taken my passport, saying that it would be safe with her. I had no other choice but to go to the streets. We went to discos and clubs (to get my clients.) I waited and waited for my debt to end, but it never did. It only grew. By my estimate, I made $60,000 -$70,000 for Aisha,” V. told the court.

V. remained in Dubai for 1 year and two months; she was a prostitute for one year. Every day, on average, she had two clients. Later, one of her clients, Mohammed, fell in love with V. Every month, he paid Aisha $4000 - $5000 for V., so that she would not have to take any other clients. Mohammed also promised to help V. in Armenia , so V. went to the police, staying for 21 days in the Immigration Service facilities and subsequently was deported to Armenia .

V. is now married, but cannot have children. “When I got pregnant in Dubai , Aisha gave me some drugs to make me lose the child. I felt very bad from these drugs. After three days of hallucinations, Aisha took me to a doctor, Olga, and I felt a little better,” remembers V.

In court in Armenia , Aisha denied the accounts of the witnesses, “I did not take their passports; they gave them to me themselves, to put them in my safe, and return to them in case of necessity. At night, they went to clubs, but I treated them very well, and never forced them to become prostitutes,” Aisha told Judge Lalayan.

However, during the initial investigation in Dubai , the report shows that Aisha stated: “V. couldn’t pay the rent or the money for the visa, so I suggested that she become a prostitute for me as R. had done”.

In another instance, another witness named M. went to Dubai , again on the advice of friends. She tried to find a job, but ended up as a prostitute, again for the pimp Anna(aka “Bulldog”). On the occasion of her mother’s death, M. returned to Armenia . But she returned to Dubai . This time, she received a UAE visa with Aisha’s help. “Aisha sent me the visa, and her mother, Hasmik, bought me the air ticket and took me to the airport for the trip to Dubai .”

She describes her experience with Aisha. “I had a period for one month, but she didn’t take me to a doctor, and forced me to work in that condition. She mistreated me badly and beat me. She left me on the street and I returned to Armenia without a penny. I was there for 1 year and 2 months. We agreed to split my earnings 50/50, but Aisha took everything, so I didn’t want to work anymore. I was living in a constant fear there,” M. recounts.

Another witness with a slightly different slant on this story is H. “I was a hairdresser working in Dubai . I dried Aisha’s hair several times. She was also helping by referring clients to me. Later, I moved into her apartment. I have complained to the prosecutors that she still owes me $5000. I had given the money to her mother in Yerevan on the condition that Aisha would repay the money.”

Aisha’s response to this demand by H. for repayment is that, in reality, it was H. who was the organizer of the trafficking of girls to Dubai . “H. brought the prostitutes to Dubai ; I never knew them before.” However, during the same interrogation session, Aisha seemed to forgot her earlier statement, saying that she met had met R. (one of the prostitutes H. would have brought to the UAE) on the streets of Dubai .

In addition, Aisha claims that the issues with H. over money arose because “H demanded $5000 for every prostitute, but I didn’t give H. the money (immediately). My intention was to make money on the prostitutes by marking up the cost of their visa, rent, and food. So I’d make money (repay H.) after a little time.”

During the investigation in Dubai , Aisha did not deny her wrongdoing; however, later in court she changed her account of the exact nature of what she had done.

“I am guilty in that I helped them get visas then they came to the Emirates, but I am not guilty on other charges. I did not force them to do prostitution, and I wasn’t their boss,” she repeatedly stated during the court proceedings. She says that in Dubai , “during the initial investigation” she admitted her guilt in contravening the first part of Article 262 of the Armenian Criminal Code.

In reviewing Aisha’s case, the prosecution took into account the fact that she has an underage child and had never been arrested before; they subsequently released her.

Aghavni Eghiazaryan

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