Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian expressed serious concern on Wednesday about a series of armed robberies in Yerevan that have targeted wealthy people, among them a former local government chief and an ex-parliamentarian.
Hovsepian said the Armenian police and other law-enforcement bodies will step up their efforts to track down a single gang which they believe is responsible for those crimes.
The police have reported five virtually identical robberies in the last few months. Their latest victim was the family of Napoleon Azizian, a businessman and former parliament deputy.
A group of masked broke into their mansion in Yerevan’s Kilikia neighborhood early on Sunday. They beat up Azizian and his wife before stealing cash and other valuables reportedly worth about $300,000.
The Yerevan houses of Aghvan Grigorian, a former mayor of the city’s Malatia-Sebastia district, and Eduard Bezoyan, a former official who oversaw large-scale road construction in Armenia, were burglarized in the same fashion in recent weeks. Both men as well as their family members were beaten up in the process.
“We are dealing with an established armed gang,” Hovsepian told journalists.
Hovsepian said he has instructed the police to incorporate the official investigations of the five robberies into a single criminal case and handle it under a Criminal Code clause dealing with “banditism.”
The influential prosecutor issued the instruction at an emergency meeting with senior police official officials held on Tuesday. He criticized the police investigation conducted so far. In particular, Hovsepian said that the police would have neutralized the gang had they responded quickly and properly to the first two robberies.
But Hunan Poghosian, a deputy chief of the national police service, insisted that the police have done their best to identify the robbers. He said the police chief, Alik Sargsian, on Wednesday discussed the investigation with a special police team formed recently and decided to reinforce it with more “experienced and competent officers.”
“We too are concerned about the activities of this criminal group,” Poghosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They act very brazenly.”
“As yet we have nothing positive in terms of solving those crimes,” he said. “However, intensive operational work is underway.”
Poghosian also urged Yerevan residents to alert the police about “suspicious individuals” engaging in “suspicious behavior” in their neighborhoods, arguing that the presumed gang carefully studied its victims before attacking them.
“I don’t want to cause panic but will urge everyone to be careful, attentive and, most importantly, cooperate with the police,” he said.