The chief of the Armenian traffic police, Colonel Margar Ohanian, was arrested on Tuesday in an ongoing corruption investigation launched by law-enforcement authorities last week.
Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) said Ohanian is suspected of abuse of power and large-scale embezzlement of public funds, crimes punishable by between two and eight years in prison.
The SIS evoked the same articles of the Criminal Code when it arrested another traffic police colonel, Stepan Karakhanian, on Friday. The agency subordinate to state prosecutors accused him of embezzling more than 150 tons of fuel that was allotted to police cars.
A police source told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Karakhanian was released from custody pending investigation on Tuesday.
The SIS also announced a separate criminal investigation into what it called a sale of driver licenses by “certain officials from the road police.” It has not arrested or named any of those officials so far.
It is not yet clear if Ohanian and Karakhanian will plead guilty to the accusations.
The chief of Armenia’s national police service, Lieutenant-General Alik Sargsian, pointedly declined to rule out Ohanian’s sacking last Thursday. Speaking to journalists, Sargsian said that the road police chief will have to “give answers just like other citizens” if investigators conclude that he personally benefited from the allegedly stolen fuel.
Although the road police have undergone major structural and other changes in recent years, corrupt practices within their ranks are believed to remain widespread.
In what it portrayed as yet another anti-corruption measure, the Armenian government announced last month that the police will start installing soon first-ever speed cameras at major street intersections in Yerevan and highways across the country. Their total number is to reach 280 by 2017.