The former chief of the Armenian traffic police arrested in September has paid some $100,000 to compensate the state for what law-enforcement authorities call a large-scale embezzlement of public funds allocated to his police unit, his lawyer said on Monday.
Colonel Margar Ohanian is facing up to eight years in prison on charges of fraud and abuse of power. He was sacked shortly after his arrest.
The accusations stem from a criminal investigation into the alleged theft of more than 150 tons of fuel that was allotted to police cars. The case against Ohanian is based on incriminating testimony given by four of his former subordinates.
Throughout the investigation conducted by state prosecutors’ Special Investigative Service (SIS) Ohanian has denied the charges, saying that he is not responsible for the alleged embezzlement.
According to his lawyer, Mkrtich Vasakian, the disgraced police official has nevertheless raised “several dozen million drams” in order to “reverse the damage caused to the state.” “That sum was collected by his family, relatives and friends,” Vasakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Despite that he still does not consider himself guilty,” he said.
Asked why his client opted for the massive payout if he thinks the charges are baseless, Vasakian said, “Since the embezzlement occurred in the road police led by him it was a matter of honor and dignity for him. That is why he paid that sum.”
The lawyer also made clear that Ohanian will demand his money back if he is acquitted by court.
Although the road police have undergone major structural and other changes in recent years, corrupt practices within their ranks are believed to remain widespread. The chief of the national police unit, Alik Sargsian, pledged to revamp the notoriously corrupt service before being himself sacked last month.