The Bourj Hammoud Massacre was a bloody armed robbery that took place in a jewelry shop in the Bourj Hammoud quarter of Lebanon in 1985. Five people lost their lives; the three perpetrators were arrested by the Lebanese Internal Security Forces and sentenced to death but succeeded in escaping from prison and have since vanished without a trace. An international warrant has been out for their arrest ever since.
The armed robbery which took place on 28 March 1985, in the head office of the “Middle East Diamond Company” in the Bourj Hammoud quarter of Beirut, shook the country back then. The criminals gunned down 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 just hours later. The scene was so horrific that the media called it “The massacre of Bourj Hammoud.” It was considered one of “the bloodiest, most serious crimes in Lebanese criminal history.”
The three perpetrators of the Bourj Hammoud massacre were brothers. They used to work with the jewelry shop owner, Hrant Kurkdjian, making jewelry to sell in their own shop.
The stolen goods found during the investigation in Raffi Nahabedian’s apartment, as well as neighbors’ testimony, proved that the brothers 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.
The brothers were very well known to the owner and the four other victims. Not for a moment did the worker who opened the gate could have suspected that 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 want 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 they could be sentenced, the brothers managed to escape the prison of Roumieh, where they had been detained by the police since 1985. There has been no trace of them since. An international warrant has been out for their arrest.
On 10 December 1994, the Lebanese court sentenced Panos, Raffi and Hratch Nahabedain in absentia to death, commuted by the law of 84/91 to life imprisonment with hard labor.
To this day, the sentence has not been carried out; the convicts remained at large until they were spotted in Austria and found living under different names.
According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and news website PUBLICO, the convicted murderer Panos Nahabedian who lives under the fake identity of “George Mazbanian” owns or runs a jewelry shop on Führichgasse 4 street, in Vienna.
The second murderer Hratch Nahabedian lives under the fake name of Hamayak Sermakanian. The murderer brothers live in the Bacherplatz district of Vienna, Austria with their families.
Hratch and Panos have reportedly lived there since they both escaped from prison in 1987, along with their third brother, Raffi Nahabedian. They formally entered Austria in 1988 with forged documents and received Austrian citizenship. Raffi died in 2012.
Despite these tips to authorities, the two remaining brothers, carrying now the names of George Mazbanian and Hamayak Sermakanian, are still at large in Vienna.
Will Austria stand for justice and deliver them to Lebanon? Better said: Will Lebanon ask for them to be brought back for Justice to be done? The families and the Armenian community in Lebanon need closure. They want justice.