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MOSCOW, June 9. /TASS/. Russian Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin has opened a criminal case against State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryov over his complicity in embezzling 22 million rubles ($750,000) from the Skolkovo hi-tech hub’s funds, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said on Tuesday.
The criminal probe was opened into the misuse of $750,000 allocated under a 2010 contract on the fulfillment of R&D work and lecturing, the spokesman said.
Under the existing legislation, Russia’s Investigative Committee has received consent from the State Duma, the lower house of the country’s parliament, for opening the criminal case against Ponomaryov, Markin said.
The investigation of the case has been assigned to the Investigative Committee’s Department for High-Profile Investigations, the spokesman said.
"Considering that Ponomaryov is currently staying outside the Russian Federation, investigators plan to initiate his international search with his subsequent extradition so that he can go on trial in Russia. Along with this, measures will be taken to compensate for the damage caused by this crime," Markin said.
According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, the Skolkovo hi-tech fund signed an agreement with Ponomaryov in 2010 on R&D work worth $750,000.
Under the agreement, Ponomaryov undertook to carry out R&D work in several stages, prepare analytical reports and have his work reviewed by international research organizations.
"Later, apparently for the purpose of making control over research work impossible, Skolkovo Vice-President Alexei Beltyukov signed an additional agreement with Ponomaryov, which reduced the contract price to $450,000 but actually cancelled the system of stage-by-stage reports," the Investigative Committee spokesman said.
"Therefore, as the investigation believes, they created conditions for stealing Skolkovo money in favor of Ponomaryov," he added.
"In order to legalize the payment of $450,000, Beltyukov prepared two reports under the guise of research papers, which absolutely had no scientific value and did not correspond to the requirements of the technical assignment, and attached them to the documents on the spending of funds," the Investigative Committee spokesman said.
According to the investigation, "in order to spend the remaining $300,000, Beltyukov signed another agreement with Ponomaryov, stipulating that the deputy should deliver a course of lectures and workshops on the topic: ‘Commercialization of New Technologies,’" the Investigative Committee spokesman said.
Some time later, Ponomaryov, indeed, submitted documents to the Skolkovo fund on lectures he had delivered, the spokesman said.
"However, when investigators started to study what these lectures were in reality, with each of them estimated at $30,000 on average, it turned out that these were short speeches from 3 to 18 minutes long and, incidentally, were unrelated to the stated theme. However, the reports indicated that these were full-fledged speeches," the spokesman said.
Therefore, the investigation believes that Ponomaryov helped Beltyukov embezzle a total of over 22 million rubles from the Skolkovo fund, the Investigative committee spokesman said.
The Main Investigative Department also continues investigating a criminal case against Skolkovo Senior Vice-President for Development and Commercialization Alexei Beltyukov on charges of the misuse of funds, the spokesman said.
Investigative Committee spokesman Markin later wrote in his Twitter account about Ponomaryov’s hiding: "If you have nothing to conceal, then why hiding? We’re waiting for you!"
Ponomaryov said on March 30 he was living abroad on money received from educational activity and research projects.
"I’m living on what I was accused of in the Skolkovo case — fees from research projects and educational lectures. US universities are inviting me to deliver lectures and hold workshops and I’m also helping a number of Russian startups, which are trying to enter international markets," Ponomaryov said during an online conference, adding he was staying abroad on a tourist visa.
"I’m not living in the United States, I’m travelling around the world and I have no other but tourist status," the Russian deputy said.
According to Ponomaryov, his accounts and his car were arrested in Russia and he has no other property.
"My salary was arrested and it is entirely spent on repaying the Skolkovo debt. I have lost the apartment I rented. I have nowhere to return at present," Ponomaryov said.
The Gagarinsky District Court of Moscow partially granted the Skolkovo fund’s lawsuit back on August 28 last year, ruling to recover about 2.7 million rubles from Ponomaryov.
According to the investigation, Ponomaryov assisted Skolkovo Senior Vice-President in embezzling over 22 million rubles allocated to popularize Skolkovo’s innovations.