The Armenian police on Friday reported a 40 percent surge in the number of corruption-related prosecutions carried out last year and pledged to further toughen their declared fight against graft.
Major-General Alik Sargsian, the national police chief, said police departments across Armenia opened a total of some 550 criminal cases relating to bribery and other corrupt practices. Sargsian described the number as “unprecedented” as he addressed an annual meeting of the police leadership in Yerevan.
“An instance of serious crime involving bribery worth about $26,000 has just been uncovered,” he said, referring to the arrest of a senior official at a prison in Abovian, a town 15 kilometers north of the capital.
A separate police statement said Lieutenant-Colonel Karine Hambardzumian was caught red-handed on Thursday while accepting $23,800 from a prison inmate in return for an alleged pledge to have him released on parole. It did not say whether Hambardzumian admitted her guilt.
In Sargsian’s words, the police will make sure that there are “numerous” corruption-related cases this year. “It must finally be clear what the fight against corruption is all about,” he told his subordinates. “We have all the prerequisites for ensuring that. The first and foremost is that this the demand of the president of the republic. We must fulfill it.”
President Serzh Sarkisian publicly demanded a tougher crackdown on government corruption when he visited the Armenian parliament’s Audit Chamber late last month. He said the parliamentary body should “work more actively” with law-enforcement bodies in punishing corrupt state officials. Sarkisian acknowledged in the past that a lack of such prosecutions fuels public mistrust in the Armenian authorities’ stated anti-corruption efforts.
According to the police, the total number of various officially registered crimes committed in Armenia jumped by 55 percent to approximately 14,000 in 2009. Sargsian said the sharp increase is primarily the result of a crackdown on the underreporting of crimes by police officials.
The police chief insisted that law-enforcement bodies have actually improved their work, saying that the number of crimes solved by them doubled in 2009. He said “political stability” in the country enabled the police to focus on performing their main duty: combating crime.