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Investigators charge VIM Airlines CEO with fraud

A law enforcement source told TASS earlier that VIM-Avia’s co-owners Rashid Mursekaev and Svetlana Mursekaeva will be put on the wanted list on the fraud charges

MOSCOW, September 29. /TASS/. VIM Airlines CEO Alexander Kochnev and Chief Accountant Yekaterina Panteleyeva have been charged with large-scale fraud during Friday’s interrogation at the Investigative Committee, Senior Partner at the Yukov & Partners law office and Kochnev’s lawyer Mikhail Voronin told TASS.

"The interrogation is underway. Charges have been filed against two defendants in the case - Kochnev and Panteleeva," the attorney said.

Detectives should file a claim on applying measures of restraint with the court for VIM-Avia’s top managers.

VIM-Avia CEO Alexander Kochnev denied the fraud charges, a source briefed on the situation told TASS.

"He is pleading not guilty. Kochnev is a hired employee and he couldn’t get anything even if there were any illegal activities or operations," the source said.

A law enforcement source told TASS earlier that VIM Airlines co-owners Rashid Mursekaev and Svetlana Mursekaeva will be put on a wanted list based on the fraud charges. Rashid Mursekaev was to appear for questioning by detectives, and a corresponding note had been sent to him beforehand.

A criminal case under Article 159 Part 4 of the Russian Criminal Code ("Fraud") was launched after a huge wave of delays and cancellations swept VIM-Avia flights. On Wednesday, Russian Investigative Committee Spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko reported that, following an order by the committee’s head Alexander Bastrykin, the case had been transferred to the Investigative Committee’s central office. According to investigators, on September 22, airline officials, who knew beforehand that there had not been enough funds for fuel, even at the Domodedovo International Airport, and did not have any contracts with other suppliers (so they were unable to transport passengers), continued selling tickets on flights, took in more than 1 mln rubles ($17,115).