Colonel Margar Ohanian, the former chief of the Armenian traffic police arrested last year, was sentenced to six years in prison on Wednesday on corruption charges which he denied throughout his five-month trial.
A Yerevan court cleared Ohanian of abuse of power alleged by prosecutors but found him guilty of large-scale embezzlement of public funds. Three other police officers prosecuted as part of the criminal case got off with suspended prison sentences.
Ohanian was arrested and sacked last September in a criminal investigation into the alleged theft of more than 150 tons of fuel that was allotted to police patrol cars. The case against him is based on incriminating testimony given by the other defendants.
Ohanian denied any responsibility for the alleged embezzlement both during the pre-trial investigation and in the court. He claimed to have been unjustly prosecuted at the behest of General Alik Sargsian, the former chief of the national police. Sargsian denied, however, any role in his subordinate’s arrest.
Ohanian’s lawyer, Mkrtich Vasakian, criticized the court ruling as too harsh, saying that the judge in the case, Mkhitar Papoyan, could have given a suspended jail term to his client as well. But Vasakian said he does not know yet whether the police colonel will appeal the verdict.
While protesting his innocence, Ohanian announced through Vasakian in December that he, his family and friends have raised over $100,000 to compensate the state for the alleged fuel loss. The lawyer described the payment as a “matter of honor and dignity” for the officer.