On Saturday (Sunday AEDT), Ukraine’s SBU security service exposed an embezzlement scheme in weapons procurement worth approximately 1.5 billion hryvnias ($60 million).
The fraud was announced by the SBU and confirmed by Ukraine’s Defence Ministry.
According to the SBU, the embezzlement surrounded the purchase of 100,000 mortar shells through a contract with Lviv Arsenal in August 2022.
Payment to Lviv Arsenal was made in advance, however, no arms were ever provided, and some funds were reportedly transferred into foreign accounts.
The SBU’s official statement wrote that an investigation had “exposed officials of the Ministry of Defence and managers of arms supplier Lviv Arsenal, who stole nearly 1.5 billion hryvnias in the purchase of shells.”
“According to the investigation, former and current high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Defence and heads of affiliated companies are involved in the embezzlement.”
Five individuals, including those within the ministry and the supplier, have been charged with “notices of suspicion”, the first stage in Ukrainian legal proceedings.
One of the five suspects was detained while trying to cross the Ukrainian border.
“As part of this case, bank accounts and other movable and immovable property belonging to Lviv Arsenal were seized,” said the statement.
If found guilty, the suspects face a prison sentence of up to 12 years.
Corruption is an ongoing issue for Ukraine’s government, as it seeks to secure its place as a member of the European Union and NATO.
Officials from both groups have demanded widespread anti-graft reforms before granting membership to Kyiv.
Revelations of internal fraud also deal a blow to morale within Ukraine and its military, as the war with Russia approaches its second year.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected in 2019 with promises to root out corruption in the country’s government.
Last September, Defence Minister Oleskii Reznikov was dismissed over various corruption charges which occurred within the military under his stewardship.