Saturday, February 07, 2004

Today’s log is going to be about my run inn’s with the law today, since other than taking a drive up towards Sevan, hooking up with DerHova (Harout) and going out for Mexican food at the best Mexican restaurant in Yerevan, Cactus, I really didn’t do much today.

On my way back from Sevan and coming into Yerevan, the traffic police checkpoint one passes on the way in, I was the last car in a group of cars, going the speed limit and so on, I get waved down by the traffic cops. I look to the cop, do the Armenian hand signal which asks what’s up and kept on driving. The cop got in his Niva (Soviet made Jeep) and came after me.

I drove on like nothing had happened and pulled into Dodi Gago Dzaroogyan’s gas station, which is located below is mansion that looks like a very large museum and has a church next to it that he built since God gave him a son.

The cop car didn’t enter the gas station and waited on the road as I pulled up and filled my car with 98 octane gas and as the attendants were filling I asked them how they were, which they asked me where my car was from and me telling them Martuni.

It turns out that one of the attendant’s served his military duty at my neighbor’s base in Martuni and told me what a great commander he was. Another of the attendant’s also served in Martuni and was good friends with someone I know. They told me to tell their friend hello and also sent warm wishes to my neighbor. I finished, paid and drove on.

I got onto the street and stopped my car, where the traffic cop came up to my car (badge #0723). I gave him my documents. He asked me why I had not stopped for him and said I had not done anything wrong, but he just wanted to check my documents. I told him that he must be new to that post and for the most part, people don’t stop my car. He said he was new.

By this time, the attendants came running to my rescue and started to threaten the cops, telling them to leave me alone and give back the documents or else they would be sorry. The one cop that was rude at first started to refer to me at the “esteemed” one and if I would be so kind to drive back with him to the check point? I agreed and as I was pulling away, the attendants told me if I had any problems, they were here and would come up and take care of the cops so they understood that they should not bother me. Wow, Mafia protection and from one of the most powerful and respected clans.

I followed the police Niva to the check-point, where the cops rushed up to their chief to fill him in and I’m sure told him what Gago’s had said to them and what they would do if they harassed me.

I walked up to the chief and introduced myself. He said a few words in English and looked over my California driver’s license and my car documents. During this time, the cops asked the chief for permission to return to their duty of stopping cars.

The chief, who I didn’t get his name from asked me if I was a native of Martuni, since my car is registered to me and my address is my home in Martuni. As far as I understand the law (maybe there has been changes, but 5 years ago the law read this way), I’m not allowed to own a car, but since this is Armenia, anything seems to go for me. I told him no, I was born in California.

He asked me what I do here and I told him I’m an investigator and investigate the government. He asked me in what way I investigate and I told him I investigate corruption and the problem of bribery. At that point, he stopped looking me in the eyes as he changed the subject and told me about his nephew who had been to New York 3 times and had returned without breaking the law and now it has been impossible to get a visa.

He finished by saying in English “Ara Manoogian is a very good boy. Give me $100 and then go” and started to laugh. I took my documents from him and drove off. I guess if the chief was not around, they would have let me go at the gas station.

As I was coming into Yerevan and had just passed the Zoo, I got stopped and the cop told me that I was speeding and was supposedly going 75kmh and if I want, I can look to see what the radar gun reads.

I told him he was wrong and whatever the radar gun reads, was not from my car and I was not going over 60kmh. He started to argue with me and I told him to stop his arguing and if he feels I’ve broken the law, to write me a ticket.

He noticed the other ticket that was written on me, that was with my documents. He asked if I had broken the law and I said yes, and for that reason they wrote the ticket. I said he can do the same, but in this case he is wrong and they will believe me over him.

He got really upset and told me that he does not have the nerves to deal with me and rudely handed back my documents. I drove on as he kept looking to me, as if he was waiting for me to fight with him.

The last run in with the law happened a little while ago as I was driving home and in front of me was a silver Mercedes G500 Jeep (one of those ugly jeeps made for NATO forces), license number 100oo10. As I was following this jeep, another car came right up behind me very close, but never flashed his lights as to pass, so I just kept driving. At one point I had a chance to pull over to the right side of the road and the car passed. This car was a black Mercedes G500 Jeep, license number 09so007. As he passed, he looked to me and looked to be swearing at me. From what I remember, I’ve seen this jeep before and was told that it belongs to some big-wig at the KGB or Ministry of Internal Affairs.

I followed the two jeeps and kept up with them as we passed a police check-point going 90kmh and at some point the road split and I took one road and them another.

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