Monday, November 26, 2018

More than $150 Million Embezzled During Construction of Vostochny Cosmodrome

A Soyuz-2.1a rocket awaits its launch at the Vostochny Cosmodrome. Photo Credit: Roscosmos.

Latest information revealed by Russian prosecutors provide some insights into the scale of corruption during construction of Vostochny Cosmodrome in the country’s Far East. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, over $150 million has been embezzled in construction of the spaceport since 2014.

"Since 2014, more than 140 criminal cases have been opened, and the damage was assessed at 10 billion rubles [$152.3 million]," Official Spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s Office Alexander Kurennoy said in an interview.

The spokesman revealed that prosecutors uncovered some 17,000 law violations during the construction works since 2014. Besides embezzlement, among the violations were delayed construction and the administration’s negligence.

According to Kurennoy, as a result of investigation, over 1,000 people have been held accountable and 50 individuals have been sentenced. Only this year, 78 law violations were found, 14 companies and officials were held accountable, and sentences for 27 people were announced. He added that since the beginning of the year, 23 million rubles ($350,000) were returned to the state.

The construction of Vostochny Cosmodrome, which began in 2011, has been disrupted many times by financial problems, corruption scandals, technical difficulties, and even by a workers strike. More recently, in February 2018, Yury Khrizman, the former head of Dalspetsstroy, a major state contractor responsible for the construction of Vostochny, was sentenced to jail for mass corruption, along with several other ex-employees. The investigation estimated the damage to Roscosmos to be about $91.6 million.

Russia sees Vostochny Cosmodrome as a strategic spaceport for the Russian space program. It is expected to reduce the country’s dependency on the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is currently on lease to Russia until 2050 at a cost of approximately $115 million per year.

Currently, only one pad is operational, Site 1S, which has seen three orbital missions so far. The construction of the second pad, designated Site 1A, started in September 2018. The new pad is dedicated for Angara rocket launches and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.