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Disgraced Former Armenian Top Traffic Cop Makes 'Honor' Payout

Former head of Armenia's traffic police, Margar Ohanian (file photo)
Former head of Armenia's traffic police, Margar Ohanian (file photo)
YEREVAN -- A former chief of Armenia's traffic police who faces allegations of embezzlement has paid more than $100,000 to the state to defend his "honor and dignity" despite his assertions of innocence in a fuel-skimming scam, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Police Colonel Margar Ohanian is facing up to eight years in prison on charges of fraud and abuse of power. He was sacked shortly after his arrest in September.

The accusations stem from a criminal investigation into the alleged theft of more than 150 tons of fuel that was allotted for police cars. The case against Ohanian is based on testimony given by four former subordinates.

Ohanian has denied the charges throughout the investigation, which was conducted by Armenia's Special Investigative Service (SIS).

According to his lawyer, Mkrtich Vasakian, Ohanian has nevertheless raised "several dozen million drams" in order to "reverse the damage caused to the state."

Vasakian told RFE/RL that the roughly $100,000 "was collected by his family, relatives, and friends."

"Despite that, he still does not consider himself guilty," the lawyer added.

Asked why his client opted for the massive payback if he thinks the charges are baseless, Vasakian said, "Since the embezzlement occurred from the traffic police led by him it was a matter of honor and dignity for him. That is why he paid that sum."

The lawyer also made it clear that Ohanian will demand his money back if he is acquitted by the court.

Although the traffic police have undergone major structural and other changes in recent years, corrupt practices within their ranks are believed to remain widespread.

National police chief Alik Sarkisian pledged to revamp the notoriously corrupt traffic police before he was himself sacked last month.

Read more in Armenian here

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