Colonel Margar Ohanian was formally dismissed as chief of Armenia’s traffic police on Wednesday the day after being arrested on corruption charges.
A spokesman for the national police denied reports that Ohanian’s brother Mushegh, who runs the police department of Yerevan’s Nor-Nork district, has stepped down in connection with the criminal case announced by the Special Investigative Service (SIS), last week.
With the SIS divulging no further details of the investigation yet, it remained unclear whether Ohanian has been formally charged or admitted to corrupt practices alleged by the law-enforcement body.
The SIS said on Tuesday that the police official is suspected of abuse of power and large-scale embezzlement of public funds, crimes punishable by between two and eight years in prison.
The agency subordinate to state prosecutors cited the same articles of the Armenian Criminal Code when it arrested another traffic police colonel, Stepan Karakhanian, on Friday. It accused him of embezzling more than 150 tons of fuel that was allotted to police cars. Karakhanian was released from pre-trial detention on Tuesday.
Colonel Norik Sargsian, another senior traffic police official, refused to comment on the extraordinary criminal proceedings on Wednesday as he gave a news conference to present more road safety measures planned by his service. “I’m not in a position to answer such questions,” he said.
Sargsian also declined to discuss media speculation that he is Ohanian’s most likely successor. “I can’t express an opinion on that,” he said. “We are servicemen. It’s the leadership of Armenia’s police that decides who must serve where.”
According to the latest official data released by the colonel, 150 people died in traffic accidents across Armenia in the first seven months of this year, a more than 10 percent increase from the same period of 2010. It also shows a sizable rise in the overall number of such accidents.
Sargsian blamed that on the rising number of cars imported to the country. He also argued that the introduction of mandatory car insurance in January has meant that car accidents are now better registered by the police.