By Emil Danielyan
An Armenian police officer has been arrested and charged with helping to organize the biggest reported bank robbery in Armenia’s post-Soviet history, state prosecutors announced on Friday.
The commercial bank Ardshininvest reported on Monday morning the disappearance of cash and jewelry, estimated to be worth about $600,000, from the deposit safes of one of its branches in Yerevan. The policeman who guarded the bank office over the week was also reported to have disappeared and thus became the main suspect in the high-profile case investigated by the Prosecutor-General’s Office.
The law-enforcement agency said in a statement that its investigators tracked down and arrested the man, identified as A. Hakobian, on Thursday. It did not specify his police rank, saying only that the officer worked for an Armenian police unit that has the exclusive legal power to provide armed guards to private businesses and other legal entities.
The prosecutors’ statement said Hakobian not only confessed to the charges but also returned “his share of the stolen sum” worth more than $31,000. The cash, which included Armenian drams, U.S. dollars, European Union euros and Russian rubles, was buried in the courtyard of a village house in southeastern Armenia, it said.
The prosecutors said they also arrested one of three other men who allegedly took part in the bloodless robbery and were also on the run. Interestingly, one of the two remaining fugitives is said to have returned another portion of the loot, 16 kilograms of golden items and 400,000 drams ($960) in cash, while refusing to turn himself in. The man, identified as A. Babayan, delivered it to the police through a taxi driver on Thursday, according to the prosecutors.
Armenia was the scene one of the biggest and most brazen bank robberies in the former Soviet Union during the early 1970s but has seen few such crimes since then. The weekend theft of money and valuables from the Ardshininvest branch was the most serious incidents of its kind reported in the country since the Soviet collapse.
Still, the beginning of this year saw an unprecedented series of armed attacks on currency exchange shops in Yerevan that left several people, including a police officer, dead. Five Georgian citizens, three of them of Armenian descent, were arrested last January in connection with one of those hold-ups.