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On Tuesday Russia’s Investigative Committee instituted a criminal case over money laundering and embezzlement of the budget funds earmarked for the Skolkovo innovation hub. Two high-ranking Skolkovo officials Kirill Lugovtsev and Vladimir Khokhlov may face from five to ten years in prison. Skolkovo itself announced that it uncovered embezzlement last autumn and all those responsible have already been sacked.
Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin confirmed the information on the launch of a criminal case against former top manager of the Foundation Kirill Lugovtsev and the head of the Skolkovo Innovation Centre Customs Finance Company (TFK Skolkovo, a subsidiary of the Skolkovo Foundation), Vladimir Khokhlov, the Kommersant business daily reported. Investigators say they are suspected of embezzling 23.8 million roubles renting in August 2011 a building to house the TFK Skolkovo headquarters from a company owned by Lugovtsev’s parents.
The Investigative Committee found out that the rent deal was sealed without any tenders and rental prices were much higher those on the market. Moreover, the renter received advance payment for the whole rental period. TFK Skolkovo did not use the building it had rent and had reported only one customs operation for the whole period of its work.
The first criminal case against the Skolkovo Foundation on embezzlement charges provoked a scandal between the Investigative Committee and the Foundation, the daily wrote. The Foundation insisted it had revealed Lugovtsev’s embezzlement schemes itself and fired him. However, the Investigative Committee believes that the high-tech hub’s authorities hid the information about financial machinations with the budget funds until very recently, promising large-scale inspections not only in the Foundation, but also in the Finance Ministry.
The Investigative Committee told Kommersant that the Foundation provided explanations to investigators only in February, when the investigation has been long underway. Investigators say they know nothing about the return of the funds laundered from the budget to the Foundation.
Experts did not dare to assess validity of investigators’ claims against the top officials of one of the Russia’s most expensive projects of recent years, Novye Izvestiya wrote. Coordinator of the RosPil anti-corruption project, Konstantin Kalmykov, only noted that Russia has enough factors of ineffective spending of budget funds and it is possible to know about them from the Audit Chamber’s reports, but practically nothing is said about the fight against them. Independent political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin, in turn, drew attention to the fact that “once again people and projects linked to the name of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev” topped the list of corruption rows.