MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) – The director of the Central Naval Museum in St. Petersburg has been arrested as part of an investigation into a $13 million fraud, the Investigative Committee said on Friday, amid the latest corruption scandal surrounding Russia’s Defense Ministry, to which the Naval Museum belongs.
Andrei Lyalin, director of the state museum, has been taken into custody because he constitutes a flight risk, investigators said, having “repeatedly expressed his intention to leave Russia,” and also because he had “exerted pressure on parties involved in the criminal case.”
Investigators say that in 2010, the Defense Ministry signed a state contract with Neviss Complex company for the provision of services connected with the museum’s move to new premises, and paid the company 295 million rubles up front. Successive invoices signed by Lyalin show that the company was paid a further 690 million rubles, despite the fact that it failed to perform the services it had been contracted to carry out.
Investigators estimate that the fraudulent scheme cost the country more than 400 million rubles ($13 million). If found guilty, Lyalin faces up to 10 years in jail.
Russia’s defense sector has been rocked over the past few months by a string of corruption scandals that led to the sacking in November of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.
Several people employed by the Oboronservis defense property services company were arrested late last year on suspicion of fraud totaling over 13 billion rubles ($430 million) involving the illegal sale of ministry property.
The Russian Federal Defense Contracts Service said last month that about 1,500 violations and infractions were uncovered in state defense spending in 2012, involving over 16 billion rubles ($533 million). Over 2 billion rubles was returned to state coffers and over 3.5 billion rubles’ worth of damage was averted last year, the service said.