The chief of Armenia’s national police service, Lieutenant-General Alik Sargsian, on Thursday pledged to revamp its road policing division following the arrest and prosecution of its commander on corruption charges.
Colonel Margar Ohanian was unexpectedly arrested on Tuesday in a criminal investigation into a large-scale embezzlement of public funds and other corrupt practices alleged by law-enforcement authorities. Sargsian formally relieved him of his duties the next day.
Sargsian admitted having had a “friendly” rapport with Ohanian but denied any responsibility for the alleged corruption. “Maybe he committed some abuses because of my attitude,” he said. “I don’t exclude that.”
“I don’t want to accuse him. Let the investigation prove the charges,” he told journalists.
Sargsian went on to announce that he and one of his deputies, Major-General Aleksandr Afian, will now personally oversee the day-to-day work of the notoriously corrupt traffic police.
“The chief of the road police will operate under my personal control and have a slightly different status from now on,” he said. “He will always wear a uniform, stay close to the service and directly deal with the task of raising the quality of the road police service.”
The road police have already undergone major structural and other changes in recent years. Nevertheless, corruption within their ranks is believed to remain widespread.
Ohanian’s prosecution has met with skepticism from government critics who argue that other law-enforcement bodies are also rife with corruption. They say that Armenia’s entire security apparatus is in need of a radical overhaul.
Sargsian said that he has not yet decided who will replace Ohanian. “I have picked personal files of eight to ten candidates and am meticulously examining them,” he said.
The new road police head will be required to “perform his real functions and nothing else,” he added.