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The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) of Ukraine today reported the arrest of five individuals involved in the alleged fraud case related to the procurement of the Armed Forces for which the deputy defense minister was dismissed last week.
The alleged “criminal group” was made up of representatives of companies that supply food to the Army, as well as military personnel, the agency said in a statement.
The network was allegedly engaged in supplying food to Defense at inflated prices and also used other strategies, such as counting as consumed products that only existed on paper.
The SBI estimates that those arrested obtained by these methods more than 4.6 million grivnas (1.14 million euros) divided among those involved, who now face prison sentences of up to 12 years.
“The SBI exposed and will continue to expose all these insidious ploys and will not allow anyone to take advantage of those who today give their blood for the homeland,” the statement reiterated.
Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov was relieved of his duties on February 24, following allegations of high prices paid by the ministry for soldiers’ food.
Shapovalov rejected the accusations as “baseless”, but announced that he would call for the termination in order to help preserve the confidence of international partners in the country and ensure an “objective investigation” of the facts.
As alleged by the SBI on Wednesday, the deputy minister was not only aware that substandard goods – both food and military equipment – were being supplied at inflated prices, but he put pressure on his subordinates to cover up this fraud.
Along with Shapovalov, six other senior cabinet members of President Volodymir Zelensky’s cabinet, elected in 2019 on a promise to end corruption in the Ukrainian political system, were dismissed.
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The Ukrainian president stressed yesterday in his evening speech that the “purity” of processes within the Defense Ministry and the defense forces, in general, are especially important and mentioned that any internal procurement must be “as clean and honest” as external procurement.
In recent days, there has been a succession of dismissals, arrests and searches of properties, such as those carried out yesterday at the property of the influential millionaire Igor Kolomoisky.
Kyiv has pledged to pursue a rigid line of “zero tolerance” towards corruption, one of the essential points required by Brussels from that country, which last year achieved recognition as an applicant to join the European Union (EU).