A Winnipeg businessman says he has successfully negotiated an end to an investor relationship with a man police have labeled a top Manitoba criminal threat.
Armik Babakhanians, an investor in the Boyd Building Inc., said he did not know Ray Rybachuk and was unaware of allegations against him when he took an indirect interest in some real estate with Rybachuk's company and other investors a few years ago.
Rybachuk has a long history of criminal activity, with multiple convictions for drug trafficking, money laundering, assault and obstructing justice.
Police have said Rybachuk has ties to biker groups and is an unscrupulous businessman who manipulates titles and deeds of upwards of 100 city properties and bullies property owners, tenants and neighbours.
Babakhanians is also president of Caspian Projects, which is working on the new Winnipeg police headquarters building on Graham Avenue.
Though he has not provided any proof, Rybachuk has stated publicly that he is "business partners" with the people involved in building the new police headquarters.
No involvement in project
In a letter to CBC News, Steven Kohn, a lawyer for Caspian, said Rybachuk has no involvement in the police headquarters project, which is a redevelopment of the former Canada Post building that Caspian is leading.
Kohn said Rybachuk has no current or previous involvement in any capacity with Caspian or any of its subsidiaries.
In September 2008, in a move unrelated to any Caspian business, Babakhanians personally became directors with Rybachuk and two others of the Boyd Building Inc., which subsequently spent $6.7 million buying three Portage Avenue properties.
The company's 2010 corporate report shows that Karr Companies owns Boyd's voting shares. Babakhanians was listed as treasurer of both Boyd Building and Karr Companies, while Rybachuk was secretary of the Boyd Building and a one-quarter shareholder of Karr Companies, along with Babakhanians and two others.
But Kohn said Babakhanians has been negotiating an end to their relationship since he became aware of the allegations about Rybachuk's background.
"The negotiations have led to an agreement and the president [Babakhanians] and Mr. Rybachuk will no longer be co-investors," he said.
Caller claimed to be Babakhanians
Last week, a man purporting to be Babakhanians called CBC News and in the course of an interview, confirmed that Rybachuk was involved in Caspian projects, including the police headquarters project.
That information was included in an initial CBC News report of this story, including a version that was posted online.
But when Kohn called CBC News the same day and vehemently denied his client had spoken on the subject, the story was removed pending further verification of the authenticity of the call and an interview with Babakhanians that Kohn said he would facilitate.
The phone call was not recorded and CBC News has not been able to verify its authenticity, nor has CBC News been able to interview Babakhanians.
In his letter to CBC News, Kohn said, "The call did not come from the president of Caspian" and that it "appears to be a fraudulent impersonation."
In a joint statement, the City of Winnipeg administration and the police service said police complete thorough security checks on all individuals working on police facilities.
"As a result, the city was aware that both Mr. Rybachuk and Mr. Babakhanians, along with others, had investments in the Boyd Building," the statement said.
"Security checks, which included speaking with the ownership of Caspian Construction, concluded there was no reason not to allow Caspian Construction to bid on the Winnipeg Police Service Headquarters project," it added.
The city and police say they are satisfied Caspian can meet the needs of the police service on the project.
Although the city refuses to say when these security checks were done, the statement indicates the checks preceded Caspian's bidding on the project.
Caspian was awarded the first phase of the project in February 2011, though Babakhanians has only recently said he became aware of the allegations about Rybachuk's background.
The Manitoba Companies Office notes that Rybachuk ceased being a director of Boyd Building Inc. on July 20, 2009. He also ceased being a director of Karr Companies the same day.
But on Nov. 18, 2009, he once again became a director of Boyd, and he remains a shareholder of Karr through his numbered company, Manitoba 5689881 Ltd.
Rybachuk has refused comment, and other investors in the Boyd Building have not returned calls.
In a story posted June 20, 2012, CBC News reported that the president of Caspian Projects indicated his company had business links with Ray Rybachuk. This information came from a telephone call we can not authenticate and is now being disputed by the company president. CBC News has no evidence to indicate Rybachuk is connected to Caspian or any of its projects. We regret the publication of this incorrect information.Jun 26, 2012 5:00 PM CT