MOSCOW, June 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russian investigators have launched a formal enquiry into a senior executive at the country's biggest airline, Aeroflot, over allegations he abused his authority by lobbying in favor of deals with tour companies owned by his family, the Investigative Committee said on Tuesday.
Aeroflot's first deputy director general Andrei Kalmykov is suspected of having lobbied in favor of deals between the airline and Sunrise Tour and Sunrise Tour Group, previously owned by Kalmykov and now formally owned by his wife and mother, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.
In March 2011, Aeroflot signed block deals with the company for economy-class flights at $221 each, while rejecting a $320 bid by rival Russian tourist operator Tez Tour.
Investigators calculate Aeroflot lost 131 million rubles ($4.6 million) on its deals with Sunrise Tour. Those deals cost the Russian government, Aeroflot’s main shareholder, 78 million rubles ($2.4 million).
Kalmykov has also previously been accused by figures claiming to be former employees of Sunrise Tour's main rivals - Capital Tour and Lanta Tour Voyage - of being involved in those companies going bankrupt in 2010 and 2012 respectively, according to Vedomosti business daily. Aeroflot later denied the accusations.
Aeroflot will “take a decision” about Kalmykov's future with the company as soon as the investigation into the case is completed, Aeroflot's chief executive Vitaly Savelyev told reporters at Le Bourget, France, on Tuesday.
Investigators have also ordered searches at the offices of Aeroflot and Sunrise Tour Group as part of an ongoing investigation into the affair.
Kalmykov's activities came under the spotlight after Russian anti-corruption blogger and opposition figure Alexei Navalny called for investigation into Aeroflot's management and corporate governance last year. Navalny was elected to the Aeroflot board of directors in June 2012 after being nominated by Alexander Lebedev, a billionaire and shareholder in the airline.
Navalny, currently on trial himself in an unrelated case, was not included in this year’s list of candidates for the board drawn up in February. Sources close to Lebedev said Navalny fell short of Lebedev’s expectations.