Ukraine finds corruption worth US$40 million in arms purchases

(CNN) — The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said it uncovered a large-scale corruption scheme in arms purchases by the country’s military worth approximately US$40 million (1.5 billion Ukrainian hryvnia).

The SBU noted that the embezzlement involved the purchase of 100,000 mortar shells for the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the fall of 2022.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry paid almost all the money to arms supplier Lviv Arsenal, but the SBU said the ammunition was never received. Instead, he claimed that some of the funds were transferred to offshore accounts, including in the Balkans.

The investigation found that former and current high-ranking defense officials, the head and commercial chief of the Lviv Arsenal, and a representative of a foreign business group were involved in the fraud.

The discovery of a massive corruption scheme would have consequences for Ukraine, which continues to resist Russia’s continued aggression while trying to force its way into the European Union, which made fighting corruption a condition of Ukraine’s future membership. Is.

The SBU said defense officials had ordered 100,000 mortar shells due in 2022, but no weapons ever arrived.  (Photo: Serhiy Nuznenko/Reuters).

The SBU said defense officials had ordered 100,000 mortar shells due in 2022, but no weapons ever arrived. (Photo: Serhiy Nuznenko/Reuters).

The SBU said five people have been charged and one of them, a former defense ministry official, was detained while trying to cross the border. He said authorities were working to arrest other suspects and those charged could face up to 12 years in prison.

“The Defense Ministry continues to fight without compromise against embezzlers in weapons purchases. There is no room for corrupt officials,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Dmytro Klimenkov said in a statement Saturday.

Ukraine has been affected by corruption scandals involving its Defense Ministry in recent years.

In December, a senior Ukrainian Defense Ministry official was detained on charges that he embezzled 1.5 billion hryvnia ($40 million) in another case involving an artillery shells contract.

The reports come just months after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed all officials in charge of regional military recruitment centers. In September, Zelensky also ousted then-Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, citing the need for a “new approach” amid continuing scandals.

CNN reported in December that Zelensky was facing increasing pressure from the United States to do more to tackle government corruption in Ukraine. Officials said Washington had sent several notices to Kiev that some types of economic aid would be tied to progress in reforming Ukraine’s institutions.

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