History

On 28 March 1985, an armed robbery took place in the "Middle East Diamond Company" head office located in the Bourj Hammoud quarter of the Lebanese capital Beirut. The criminals gunned down in cold blood the five people present in the shop and made off with jewelry to an estimated value of 20 million Lebanese pounds. The victims were the main shareholder and chief manager of "Middle East Diamond Company" Hrant Kurkdjian and his four workers, Hani Zammar, Maria Hanna Mikhayel, Khatoun Tekeyan and Avedik Boyadjian.

The police discovered the five bodies lying in a pool of blood. The crime shook Lebanese society to the core; the media called it "the massacre of Bourj Hammoud".

It was considered "the bloodiest, most serious crime in Lebanese criminal history".

Fifteen days after the crime took place, the police arrested two people: Raffi Assadour Nahabedian (25) and Panos Assadour Nahabedian (27). The spoils were found hidden in Raffi Assadour Nahabedian's apartment: 3172 grams of 18-carat gold, 495 grams of diamonds (2400 carats), 3244 US dollars and gemstones worth 700 000 US dollars. The value of the stolen goods was estimated at 20 million Lebanese pounds. The two men were interrogated by Mount Lebanon public prosecutor M. Maurice Khawam and confessed to their crime. They had bagged the jewels in preparation for quitting Lebanon for Europe, where they intended to live the high life. On 17 April, the third perpetrator, Hratch Assadour Nahabedian, was arrested by Interpol at Larnaca airport in Cyprus as he was preparing to flee to Europe himself. He was extradited to Lebanon.

The three perpetrators of the Bourj Hammoud massacre were brothers. They used to work with the jewelry shop owner, Hrant Kurkdjian, making jewelry to order in their own shop. The stolen goods found during the investigation in Raffi Nahabedian's apartment, as well as neighbours’ testimony, proved that Panos, Raffi and Hratch Nahabedian had planned the attack with robbery in mind. They clearly admitted to having abused the trust of Hrant Kurkdjian and his workers to enter the jewelry shop easily and without suspicion through an electric gate. They were very well known to the owner and the four other victims. Not for a moment did the worker who opened the gate suspect he was letting in his own killers. The three brothers admitted to having killed everyone present in the jewelry shop so as to obliterate any evidence or testimony against them. They did not wish to leave behind any witnesses who might have recognized them. Hratch Nahabedian personally admitted to firing at the five people with a silenced revolver.

In 1987, before the three brothers could be sentenced, Panos, Raffi and Hratch Nahabedian contrived under mysterious circumstances to escape the prison of Roumieh, where they had been detained by the police since 1985. There has been no trace of them since.

On 10 December 1994, the Lebanese court sentenced Panos, Raffi and Hratch Nahabedian in absentia to death, commuted by the law of 84/91 to life imprisonment with hard labor. An international warrant was out for their arrest.

The murderers were spotted 3 decades later in Vienna, Austria, by the families of the victims.

The case is reopened.

Chronology

  • The Crime

    Around 4p.m. the police finds the 5 victim's bodies in a pool of blood inside the Middle East Diamond Company in Bourj Hammoud. The crime was committed around 2:30 p.m.

    Jewelry, gold, and cash to an estimated value of more than 1.5 million USD were stolen.

  • The Arrest

    The named Boghos Mazbanian, the uncle of the Nahabedian brothers and in the meantime the father-in-law of Panos Nahabedian, calls Robert Boghossian, the partner of the murdered Hrant Kurkdjian, and invites him to an urgent meeting. Boghos Mazbanian and his son Garbis Mazbanian accuse the brothers as the murderers and indicate the location of the spoils. They expect to be paid by Robert Boghossian for this "service".

    Robert Boghossian informs the Police and Raffi Nahabedian is arrested the same night. He in turn denounces where Panos is hiding.

    A few hours later Panos is arrested in West Beirut. He arrives at an appointment with Raffi, the head shaved, avoiding to be recognised by the police, but instead of Raffi he finds the Police waiting for him.

    The loot was seized inside the apartment of Raffi and also in the apartment rented by Panos in West Beirut.

  • Arrest of Hratch

    Hratch is arrested in Cyprus by Interpol and extradited to Lebanon.

  • Arrest of Robert Boghossian

    The 3 criminals accuse Robert Boghossian, Hrant Kurkdjian's associate, of being their partner.

    Robert Boghossian is arrested and later released on bail.

  • The escape from Roumyeh prison

    The 3 murderers escape from the Roumieh prison. The government (in those days under the presidency of Amine Gemayel), provides the most ridiculous and disrespectful explanation for the escape: "they tied the sheets together and escaped from the window".

    Historically, the prison of Roumieh has very low escape records, only beneficiaries of government protection would ever get out, indicating a clear case of corruption. Obviously someone was bribed with a huge amount of money.

    The 3 criminals vanished since then.

  • End of war

    End of civil war in Lebanon. The parliament votes for an amnesty law, reducing punishments for crimes committed before...

  • The Verdict

    The 3 brothers are condemned in absentia to the death penalty, reduced to lifelong imprisonment.

    Robert Boghossian is declared innocent.

  • The criminals in Vienna

    The criminals are spotted in Vienna by one of the victim's family member.

  • The case in Vienna

    The families of the victims are united, hire a lawyer in Vienna and present a demand for extradition of the murderers to Lebanon.

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DAYS WITHOUT JUSTICE