Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, has uncovered a conspiracy involving employees of a prominent Ukrainian arms firm and defense ministry officials.
The alleged scheme revolves around the misappropriation of nearly $40 million, originally designated for the purchase of 100,000 mortar shells intended for the ongoing conflict with Russia.
The SBU, in a statement released late Saturday, disclosed that charges have been filed against five individuals, with one person apprehended while attempting to cross the Ukrainian border.
If proven guilty, the accused individuals could face a maximum sentence of up to 12 years in prison.
This investigation unfolds amid Kyiv’s concerted efforts to combat corruption, a key prerequisite for expediting Ukraine’s accession to the European Union and NATO.
International groups have raised the need of implementing comprehensive anti-corruption reforms before Ukraine can be considered for inclusion.
President Zelenskyy’s Anti-Corruption Drive
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, elected in 2019 on an anti-corruption platform, has consistently emphasized the commitment to eradicating corruption within the country.
Recent dismissals of high-ranking officials, notably Ivan Bakanov, the former head of the State Security Service in July 2022, have been portrayed by the president and his aides as tangible evidence of their anti-graft initiatives.
The current investigation traces its roots back to August 2022, when officials entered into a contract for artillery shells valued at 1.5 billion hryvnias ($39.6 million) with the arms firm Lviv Arsenal.
The agreement stipulated that, upon receiving payment, the company’s employees were to transfer the funds to an overseas-registered business, responsible for delivering the ammunition to Ukraine.
However, investigations reveal that the contracted goods were never delivered, and instead, the funds were diverted to various accounts within Ukraine and the Balkans.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general has confirmed that the embezzled funds have been seized and will be returned to the country’s defense budget, rectifying the financial malfeasance.