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Armenian Police Chief Arrested On Corruption Charges

Corruption is believed to be widespread among Armenia's traffic police.
Corruption is believed to be widespread among Armenia's traffic police.
YEREVAN -- The chief of the Armenian traffic police has been arrested in a corruption investigation launched by law-enforcement authorities last week, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Armenia's Special Investigative Service (SIS) said Colonel Margar Ohanian is suspected of abuse of power and large-scale embezzlement of public funds, crimes punishable by between two and eight years in prison. He was arrested on August 30.

The SIS named the same criminal charges when it arrested another traffic police colonel, Stepan Karakhanian, on August 26. The SIS, which is subordinate to state prosecutors, accused him of embezzling more than 150 tons of fuel that was allotted for police cars.

A police source told RFE/RL that Karakhanian was released later on August 30 pending investigation.

The SIS also announced a separate criminal investigation into what it described as the sale of driver's licenses by "certain officials from the road police." It has not arrested or named any of these officials thus far.

The chief of the national police service, Lieutenant General Alik Sarkisian, pointedly declined to rule out Ohanian's sacking on August 25.

He told journalists that Ohanian will have to "give answers just like other citizens" if investigators conclude he benefited from the allegedly stolen fuel.

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

In what it portrayed as yet another anticorruption measure, the government announced last month that the police will start installing the country's first-ever speed cameras at major intersections in Yerevan and highways across the country. There are plans to install some 280 by 2017.