Father who kidnapped son to Armenia gets two year sentence from Oshawa courthouse

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Published August 28, 2023 at 12:43 pm

A man who abducted his son to Armenia without his ex-wife’s knowledge has been sentenced to two years less a day in prison, less time than he and the boy were out of the country.

In April 2018 Armen Avansi, now age 40, and his ex-wife were negotiating a visitation schedule for their then-three-year-old boy. The couple separated two years prior. The mother texted Avansi with her work schedule on April 18. However, in response to the mother’s text Avansi told her he had taken their son on a one-week vacation to Armenia. “Is this a joke?” she replied.

It was not. Avansi and the boy were already abroad. It would take much longer than a week for mother and son to see each other. The boy would not return to Canada for two years and eight months in December 2020. In her decision on Avansi’s sentence Justice Kathryn Fillier called this time as one of “emotional turmoil and legal proceedings in Armenia.”

Avansi himself voluntarily returned to Canada six months later in June 2021. He was arrested on his arrival at Pearson Airport and charged with abduction and breaking a court order. He pled guilty to both charges in March.

In reaching a sentence, Fillier had to consider Avansi’s background, his guilty plea, the impact of the crime and the position of the prosecutor and defence attorneys. Crown Prosecutor Kevin Alderton argued for a two-year sentence while defence attorney Trevin David argued for a conditional sentence served in the community.

“Prior to abducting [the boy], there is no suggestion that he had been anything other than a loving father,” Fillier wrote. Avansi spent five years in the Canadian Armed Forces and achieved a computer science degree from the University of Toronto. He was an entrepreneur running his business Apps Continuum for mobile programs. He had no criminal record prior to the abduction.

In social worker meetings, Avansi described concerns about the boy’s health. He had frequent ear infections and pneumonia before the abduction. Avansi said these concerns for the child’s health inspired him to take the boy out of the country.

According to Fillier, this choice caused the mother and her parents great distress saying, “To say that Mr. Avansi’s actions have traumatized them would be an understatement.” The mother quit her job for three years to dedicate her time to bringing her son home. Armenia does not have an extradition treaty with Canada.

The mother went to Armenia in an effort to return with her son. “She was living in a country where she did not speak the language and trying to navigate a justice system which was altogether unfamiliar. where she did not speak the language and tried to navigate a justice system which was altogether unfamiliar,” Fillier described.

The mother described living through the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a more than 35-year-long conflict between Armenia and neighbouring Azerbaijan. Fighting had cooled between the nations in 1994, but after several years of low-intensity combat, 2020 saw the resumption of open warfare in the 44-day Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. The brief conflict had a high death toll killing nearly 7,300 troops and at least 185 civilians. 

The mother and her parents “also recounted the terror of living through a war in a foreign country to which they had no ties and no understanding of the language or customs.”

The abduction, her presence in Armenia and surviving the war financially ruined the mother. The victims estimated they lost arounfd $400,000 Her parents were also part of the efforts to return their grandson. They accompanied their daughter to Armenia, leaving their business in Trinidad neglected. The three also shared the stuggles of staying in Armenia, not only during a war, but the during onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“Avansi was unrelenting in his efforts and persisted at every turn in preventing Alex from returning to Canada, thereby prolonging the ordeal and uprooting the lives of his son, his ex-wife and her parents for close to three years,” Fillier wrote.

Fillier ultimately sentanced Avansi to two years less a day in prison for the abduction minus credit for time he spent in custody pre-trial. Counting the credit Avansi has 613 days of a sentance left to serve. Following his release he’ll serve three years of probation. The court also ordered him to pay $8,600 but deferred futher restitiution to the civil courts.

“Mr. Avansi, good luck in the future.  You committed a serious crime and I found that this is the way you need to pay that debt to society.  Good luck, Sir,” Fillier concluded.

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