Updated January 28th, 2024 at 19:23 IST
Ukraine Busts Another Corruption Scandal, Says Officials Stole $40M Meant for Mortar Shells
During its war against Russia, Ukraine has uncovered several corruption cases as it faces pressure from NATO and the EU to put anti-graft measures in place.
KYIV, UKRAINE: The Security Service of Ukraine or SBU, on Saturday, said that several officials of the nation's defence ministry have been caught conspiring with the arms supplier Lviv Arsenal in a scheme that stole 1.5 billion hryvnias (around $40 million). These funds were reportedly earmarked to purchase 100,000 mortar shells to aid Ukraine in its ongoing war against neighbouring Russia. The SBU investigation has, thus far, led to five people being charged, with one of the individuals being caught while attempting to cross the Ukrainian border. If these officials are found guilty of the crimes they are being accused of, they will face up to 12 years in prison. According to the SBU, the contract for these mortar shells was put in with Lviv Arsenal back in August 2022, just six months into the war in Ukraine.
The payment for the same was reportedly made in advance and company employees were supposed to transfer the funds to a business registered abroad. However, the promised goods never materialised and an investigation found that the funds were instead funnelled to several bank accounts in Ukraine and the Balkans. According to the SBU, at least some of this money is recoverable.
Not an isolated incident
This, notably, is not the only wartime corruption scandal to be reported from Ukraine during the conflict that has continued to rage since February 2022. With both the European Union and NATO demanding comprehensive anti-graft reforms in Ukraine as a precondition for the nation joining their respective blocs, President Volodmymr Zelenskyy has been proactive about carrying out a highly publicised crackdown on corruption. Back in September of last year, such efforts led to the resignation of Ukraine's then-defence minister Oleksii Reznikov. Reznikov was not compelled to leave his post due to his being directly involved in any corruption scandals. Rather, he left his post as several corruption scandals had been reported within his ministry, which ranged from officials inflating the prices of food procurement contracts to recruitment centre heads accepting bribes from men who were looking to avoid being drafted as part of the war.
The Defence Ministry aside, another senior Ukrainian official, this time the Deputy Minister of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure, was sacked in January last year for grossly inflating the price of contracts for the procurement of generator sets. This scandal came at a particularly sensitive time for Ukraine as the nation had a desperate need for generator sets following repeated strikes by Russia on its energy infrastructure during the cold winter months. The minister was reportedly paid $400,000 for his role in the whole affair.
With inputs from AP.
Published January 28th, 2024 at 19:23 IST