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Armenia cracks down on ‘thieves-in-law’

21 June 2018

Armenian police claim to have detained more than 30 ‘thieves-in-law’ and members of the ‘criminal authorities’. The authorities have released footage appearing to show large amounts of weapons, ammunition, and drugs being confiscated during raids on Wednesday.

Police released a video of the raids and searches as well as suspects being taken into custody. Among the detainees was Andranik Arutyunyan, aka the Limping Ando, reportedly a notorious ‘thief-in-law’ .

The next day, police chief Valery Osipyan, commenting on the arrests, spoke about the rule of law in Armenia, underlying that their job was not to ‘purge’ anyone from country. ‘The law in Armenia is a priority for all, everyone should respect it. Criminal authorities are also people, citizens of Armenia, with respective rights and duties. But all citizens must obey the law of the Republic of Armenia, no matter what’, said Osipyan.

According to web-portal CrimeRussia, law enforcement agencies begun searches and questioning of ‘thieves-in-law’ right after Pashinyan became prime minister, also conducting preventive communication with them and disrupting meetings.

Police, in a joint operation with the Investigation Committee, also visited offices of nightclub and restaurant chain Yans, indirectly owned by the former deputy head of special state protection service Vachik Kazaryan. The authorities said they found two pistols and more than $1 million in cash, and an investigation is underway.

Corruption ‘crackdown’

There have been reports of tension between the police under Osipyan, a former deputy who replaced Vladimir Gasparyan in early May, and the National Security Service (NSS), a claim the police chief refuted to journalists.

At the beginning of June, Osipyan claimed the police were free of corruption, after NSS head Artur Vanetsyan’s called for an end to corruption ‘in some police units’.

The police chief also told the press that based on ‘operative information’, they searched the central office of the Karabakh military volunteers’ union Yerkrapah, but did not find anything illegal.

Yerkrapah’s head, MP and a retired general Manvel Grigoryan was arrested on 16 June. Searches of his properties uncovered large amounts of luxury and and allegedly misappropriated weapons, ammunition and army supplies, supposedly meant as donations for frontline during the 2016 April War with Azerbaijan.

In recent weeks, the NSS has conducted several high-profile anti-corruption investigations, targeting supermarket chain Yerevan City and Alex Holding, owned by MP Samvel Aleksanyan, customs brokerage firm Norfolk Consulting for tax evasion, and prosecuting the Yerevan Foundation for fraud.