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Ex-defense officials charged with embezzling $25 million through bulletproof vest purchases

by Martin Fornusek January 8, 2024 1:41 PM 1 min read
The ex-deputy defense minister and two other former defense officials were charged with embezzling almost Hr 1 billion ($25 million) through a purchase of low-quality bulletproof vests. (Prosecutor General's Office)
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A former deputy defense minister and two other ex-defense officials were charged with embezzling almost Hr 1 billion ($25 million) through the purchase of low-quality bulletproof vests, the Prosecutor General's Office reported on Jan. 8.

The suspects also included the former head of the ministry's State Procurement Department and the ex-chief of the military's Material Support Department.

Procurement corruption has been a long-standing problem at the defense ministry, with two major scandals having preceded the ousting of former Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov last fall.

One of the main tasks given to Reznikov's successor, Rustem Umerov, was to strengthen transparency in the procurement process.

According to New Voice, the first two suspects are ex-Deputy Defense Minister Viacheslav Shapovalov and former State Procurement Department Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, who are currently in custody on other corruption charges.

The suspects allegedly purchased 50,000 low-quality, unusable vests for the military in 2022 amid the full-scale war. The equipment was bought from a foreign-based company, whose beneficial owners are Russian citizens, the investigation said.

Based on expert examinations, the purchase resulted in a loss of Hr 948 million ($25 million) in state funds.

The suspects have been charged with property embezzlement and obstruction of the activities of Ukraine's Armed Forces.

As part of previously launched proceedings, Shapovalov and Khmelnytskyi are suspected of spending Hr 350 million ($9.2 million) on low-quality body armor and almost Hr 1 billion ($26 million) on unsuitable military uniforms.

Ukrainian media also linked the two ex-officials to a food procurement scandal from last winter, leading to their resignation in January 2023.

Authorities are trying to establish the whereabouts of the third suspect, and searches were conducted at his place of residence, the prosecutors said.

The suspects face up to 12 years in prison.

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