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MOSCOW, September 29. /TASS/. A Moscow court has placed director general of Russia’s debt-laden VIM Airlines, Alexander Kochnev, who is charged with embezzling the company’s funds, under house arrest till November 25.
Announcing the court ruling on Friday, Judge Elena Lenskaya of Moscow’s Basmanny District Court said while under house arrest Kochnev will be allowed to visit medical centers upon preliminary notice of investigators but will be prohibited from leaving home in any other cases, to speak with the media, or use the internet and postal services.
Earlier in the day, the company’s chief accountant Yekaterina Panteleyeva was also placed under house arrest, also until November 25.
According to investigators, the company’s top managers had been drawing funds from the company’s accounts, seeking to keep their embezzlement scheme going. What’s more, despite being unable to fulfill their commitments to their passengers, the company continued to sell tickets to customers.
A source close to the investigation told TASS that Kochenev and Panteleyeva are accused of selling tickets while being aware that the company could not cover its liabilities. "Kochnev and other persons knew about the bad situation the company was in it but took no steps to stop ticket sales and used the money at their own discretion," the source said.
The felony fraud investigation was launched after mass delays and cancellations of flights by VIM Airlines, also known as VIM-Avia, Russia’s tenth largest carrier. According to investigators, since September 22, the airline’s officials continued selling tickets despite knowing that the flights could not be carried out. They allegedly collected more than 1 million rubles ($17,000). Several thousand passengers were stranded as their flights had been canceled.
The crime is punishable by a prison term of up to ten years.
The company’s owners, Rashid and Svetlana Mursekayevs, presumably fled Russia on the day when the criminal case was initiated. A source in the law enforcement agencies told TASS earlier they will be put on the wanted list.
According to Russia’s Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya), VIM-Avia’s overall debt amount to about seven billion rubles ($121.56).
On Thursday, Russia’s government allocated 98 million rubles ($1.7 million) from the Reserve Fund to Rosaviatsiya to service VIM-Avia’s aircraft, including paying for fuel and airport services. The company’s overall debt for fuel and airport services stand at 1.3 billion rubles ($22.57 million).