Ukraine says it uncovered $40 million scheme to embezzle money meant for weapons
The supplier "did not send a single artillery shell to our country, and took the received funds into the shadows," Ukraine said.
High-ranking Ukrainian Defense Ministry officials conspired with employees of a Ukrainian arms supplier in a scheme to embezzle nearly $40 million meant to purchase 100,000 mortar shells for the country to use in its war against Russia, according to Ukraine's security service known as the SBU.
The plot began in August 2022 when officials signed a contract with the supplier Lviv Arsenal for nearly 1.5 billion hryvnias, or more than $39.6 million, for mortar shells, the SBU said Saturday.
After being paid, the supplier was supposed to transfer part of the funds to a foreign company that was supposed to deliver 100,000 mortar rounds to Ukraine.
However, the supplier "did not send a single artillery shell to our country, and took the received funds into the shadows," the SBU said, as translated. Most of that money was sent to accounts in the Balkans instead.
The SBU was able to document the embezzlement scheme and identified all involved, the agency said. The Ukrainian government seized the stolen funds and officials are currently working on resolving the issue of returning the money to the budget of Ukraine, according to the SBU.
Five people allegedly involved in the scheme have been "notified of suspicion," which is the first stage of Ukraine's criminal legal process, the SBU said. Additionally, one of the suspects is in custody after he tried to leave Ukraine, according to officials.
The people who were implicated in the plot include defense officials, Lviv Arsenal employees and a foreign accomplice, per the SBU.
If convicted, those responsible face up to 12 years in prison, the Ukrainian government said.
The announcement of the uncovered scandal comes as Ukraine has been under heavy scrutiny for its use of international aid in its war against Russia. Earlier this month, the U.S. Defense Department said that officials have not kept an inventory of roughly $1 billion worth of specialized military equipment that the war-torn European nation has received as of last summer.