Monday, February 16, 2009

Madame Anoush: Infamous Pimp in Court Once Again

[ 2009/02/16 | 19:30 ]
HETQ court
Ararat Davtyan

Four women, three of whom are sisters, appeared before the Yerevan Criminal Court, all charged with the same crime. The main heroine of this criminal trial, presided over by Judge Yeva Darbinyan, is Anoush Martirosyan, the infamous “Madame-pimp” of Dubai. The other three, Sofya Martirosyan, Sonya Gabrielyan (both sisters of Anoush) and Mariam Martikyan, are charged with aiding and abetting the “Madame pimp” in her nefarious activities.

40 year-old Anoush, a high school graduate, has been in custody since October 1, 2008. For years on end Anoush has overseen the transfer, through fraud and deceit, of women of various ages from Armenia to the United Arab Emirates where they have been subject to sexual exploitation.

On December 2, 2004, Yerevan’s Kentron and Nork-Marash Court of First Instance found Anoush Martirosyan guilty of violating Article 262 of the RoA Criminal Code (Engaging in the organization of prostitution). As her punishment, she was merely fined 200,000 drams.

In 2004, investigators from the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, headed by Aristakes Yeremyan, were sent to Dubai where they conducted numerous interrogations regarding criminal cases involving Armenian pimps. In reality, these investigations were merely for show since many of these pimps voluntarily returned to Armenia where they only received a slap on the wrist by the courts. Afterwards, they returned to their “work”. (At the time, “Hetq” covered the issue in detail in a series of investigative articles entitled “In Desert Nights”)

In essence, a similar deal had been worked out with Anoush Martirosyan since she left the Emirates and returned to Armenia in 2004 for the sole reason of having a court hearing. In addition, during her stay in Yerevan here activities in Dubai were coordinated from Armenia.

The following is an excerpt of the testimony given by 26 year-old Ani (her real name has been changed). “Anoush went to Yerevan for 3-4 months for her trial. Before leaving she brought her sister Sonik over to Dubai. She was the one who collected payment from us and write the obligatory amounts down in the registry book. She’d always be on the phone to Armenia telling Anoush who paid what and how the girls were working.”Ani is one of the three individuals recognized as an injured party in this case. During the first trial session held on February 6 at the Yerevan Criminal Court, Anoush Martirosyan declared that the sentence she received in 2004 covered her crimes in relation to Ani. However, both Ani and her mother, who served as a witness, claim that Ani’s case file wasn’t included in the previous trial.

Ani, who hails from the town of Yeghegnadzor, returned to Armenia from Dubai three months ago. During the trial she related in detail how she wound up in Dubai some six years ago at the age of twenty.

“I had relocated to Yerevan and was living with a girlfriend. I was working in the market in the Bangladesh neighborhood market. Through my girlfriend I made the acquaintance of a woman named Ano. She knew that we didn’t own a home and that we were renting a place in Yeghegnadzor. One day she said that I should go to Dubai and take care of her sister’s kids, that I’d receive a normal salary with which to buy a house She told me that I wouldn’t get anywhere by working in Armenia. I agreed,” recounts Ani.

Afterwards, Ano took Ani to see Sonya Gabrielyan, who arranged for a visa and plane ticket to Moscow. There, Ani was met by a guy called Aper and days later she flew to Dubai with a fake Russian passport.

“I was met there by Anoush and Arayik. He immediately took my Russian and Armenian passports and handed them over to Anoush,” recounts Ani. “At first Anoush treated me well. She took me to her house where there were many other girls. She didn’t say anything that first day but on the second she demanded that I go to the InterCity Hotel and engage in prostitution. I told her that I hadn’t come to Dubai for that and that she should send me back to Armenia.”

In response, Anoush Martirosyan pointed out that she had spent a considerable sum of money to get Ani to Dubai and that there could be no talk of returning until the money was repaid.

“I was forced to work. It was impossible to live under Anoush’s thumb. There were days when she’d beat us and not feed us if we didn’t work. She would line us all up in a row and grab her shoe…It didn’t matter whether I worked well or poorly, she’d always hit me. One day I complained saying that after all the work I was doing she wasn’t giving me any money nor was she sending it back home to Armenia. Upon hearing these words, she rushed me into a taxi, took me back to the house, and proceeded to beat me with an iron bar,” Ani recounts. “After this I fled for the first time. There was one girl from Georgia. She was the only one who didn’t tell Anoush everything. I telephoned her. She picked me up and helped me. She and her girlfriend stitched-up my hand.”

Ani says that after the incident Anoush promised to send her back to Armenia if she worked well. “I stayed with Anoush for another four months but she didn’t send me back to Armenia. One day police raided the building. I took advantage of the melee and escaped once again. But ten days later I was brought back with the assistance of “Pochik Ali” (Ponytail Ali).

As Ani puts it, “Pochik Ali” is the boss of Dubai. When Armenian pimps need to punish their employees they call up this Arab with a long ponytail of hair hanging down. He takes the unruly employees to the desert where the women are gang raped, beaten and then brought back to work.

Ani relates that she was forced to stay with Ali after he was called in. “What else could I do? I stayed rather than being pushed down the toilet like the others or dragged off to the desert where they’d do who knows what. After this I’d give all the money I was making to him every day. But two months later he passed me back to Anoush.”

Ani escaped from the clutches of Anoush for the third time in 2004 when the pimp had left for her trial in Armenia.

“I worked for Anoush for almost two years. She had burned my Russian passport and tore up my Armenian one. This is why I couldn’t travel to Armenia for four years after escaping. I was bounced around by the Russian and Armenian consulates, nobody wanted to help me. I was rounded up by the police at least one hundred times but never deported. I wrote numerous letters to Armenia, to the 6th Department, explaining the entire situation. They sent off a letter to the Armenian Embassy with a certificate of return. They finally brought me back to Yerevan,” Ani testified in court.

During the trial, the court also listened to the testimony of a witness named Arousyak G. This woman had also been charged with “organizing prostitution” in the past. She stated that she knew Anoush not only from Yerevan but that she had met her in the Emirates as well. At the beginning of her testimony she verified that Anoush worked as a pimp in Dubai just as she had done. She later added that in the fall of 2007 she stayed in Anoush’s home for several months and that about 4-5 prostitutes were living there as well. Arousyak G. then went on to claim that the “working girls” didn’t hand over their daily take to Anoush but rather paid her rent at the end of each month. “None of them had a harsh word for Anoush. In fact, Anoush was well loved by them,” she stated.

At this point in the trial, Anoush Martirosyan is seen making the sign of the cross and praising God that at least one person has spoken the truth.

Another witness in the trial named “A.M.” turned out to be another victim of Madame Anoush. But this person wasn’t recognized as an injured party because she never filed a complaint against the pimp. She told the court that much time had passed since the events and that she could remember next to nothing.

“…Siroushik sent me off to Moscow in March of 2003, ostensibly for a high paying job as a waitress. A man named Arayik met me in Moscow and took me to his house. A few days later he handed me a fake Russian passport and put me on a plane to Dubai where I was met by Anoush. She proceeded to take my passport from me. She then took me to her house and told me that I’d have to work as a prostitute. Since I didn’t have a passport I was obliged to stay with Anoush and work as a prostitute like the other girls. Like the others, I handed everything I made to Anoush. She would always insult me and the other girls and beat us if we didn’t work according to her standards. I worked for Anoush until December, 2004, the time I was picked up by the police and deported to Armenia.”

The above is an excerpt of the testimony given by “A.M.” during the pre-trial examination. After the transcript was published and the judge asked if it had been recorded correctly the witness answered “yes”, and then added, “Well, if we went and didn’t work she should have beaten us one more time or at least chastised us.”

These words were greeted with applause. The one applauding was Sofya Martirosyan, the accused sister of Anoush.

To be continued

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