The Armenian police strongly denied being too soft on reckless drivers of expensive cars on Wednesday following an overnight accident in Yerevan that left two traffic police officers dead.
The officers, Areg Davtian and Khachik Gasparian, were in a patrol car hit by a luxury SUV in the early hours of Monday morning. According to law-enforcement authorities, the BMW X6 vehicle’s 25-year-old driver, Sargis Vartanian, fled the scene but was tracked down and detained later in the day.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee said Vartanian exceeded a legal speed limit when he rammed the police car at a crossroads in the city center. It also emerged that the young man has no valid driving license. He used to have one before being banned by the police in 2014 from driving for one year due to serious traffic violations.
Also on Monday, the police arrested Vartanian’s younger brother Serzh on charges of robbery and violent assault which were brought against him late last year. The Investigative Committee claimed that his arrest was not connected with the deadly car crash.
Media commentators and social media users were quick to claim that the accident was made possible by what they see as impunity enjoyed by unruly well-to-do people due to corruption in the government and security apparatus.
A deputy chief of the national police service, Hunan Poghosian, rejected such claims when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The police have always punished and will continue to punish all the lice and worms swarming in our society,” he said.
Poghosian also dismissed arguments that the arrested suspect was able to drive the car without a license. “Do you know how many drivers there are in Armenia and how many of them drive cars without having driving licenses?” he said.
Some media outlets suggested that the detained brothers have previously avoided criminal prosecution thanks to their grandfather, who holds a senior position in Armenia’s national gas distribution network.
Newspaper reports also claimed that Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, who used to manage the network, telephoned the head of the Investigative Committee, Aghvan Hovsepian, and told him to ensure that Sargis Vartanian is strictly punished for the deaths of the two policemen.
Karapetian’s spokesman, Aram Araratian, implicitly denied those reports on Monday, saying that the prime minister is not in a position to intervene in criminal investigations. But Araratian said he is aware of the details of the car accident.
“The prime minister is confident that relevant bodies will perform their duties defined by the law, as a result of which all the guilty individuals will receive the punishment they deserve,” the official told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).