Mihran Keshishian

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Police Officer Flees Prosecution Over Bribery

08.11.2011 Irina Hovhannisyan

A senior police officer in Yerevan has gone into hiding to evade prosecution on bribery charges, law-enforcement authorities announced on Tuesday.

The Special Investigative Service (SIS) formally charged Mihran Keshishian, deputy chief of the police department of the city’s southern Erebuni district, at the weekend with taking a $13,000 kickback.

The SIS says Keshishian demanded the money in return for ending a criminal inquiry into the alleged transfer of drugs to a man serving a prison sentence in Yerevan’s Nubarashen prison. It is not clear if the officer considers the allegation unfounded.

An SIS official told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Keshishian disappeared immediately after being charged. The law-enforcement agency subordinate to prosecutors has begun a nationwide manhunt for the fugitive officer, the official said.

“[Keshishian] is an experienced officer and am very surprised that he did such a stupid thing not befitting a policeman,” Nerses Nazarian, chief of the Yerevan police, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. Nazarian refused to comment on details of the embarrassing case, arguing that it is being handled by the SIS.

Corruption within the Armenian police and other security agencies has long been a serious problem. Law-enforcement officials are often accused of seeking bribes for not prosecuting criminal suspects or ensuring a mild punishment for them.

Last March, the SIS arrested Major-General Hovannes Tamamian, head of the feared Directorate General of Criminal Investigations at the national police service, and another senior police officer. They were accused of deliberately mishandling a murder investigation.

Nazarian denied a direct connection between Keshishian’s prosecution and last week’s appointment of the new national police chief, Vladimir Gasparian.

Gasparian, who previously served as deputy defense minister, has pledged to uphold “the supremacy of the law” and reform the police. Several senior police officials have already been replaced by him.