Taras Vysotskyi, a first deputy minister in Kyiv, and a number of other senior Ukranian officials have been accused of graft in the purchase of food – including pasta – for war-torn regions of Ukraine, according to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU).
Ukraine’s anti-corruption organizations opened an investigation into top-level government officials who purchased food at overly inflated prices, leading to a $1.7 million loss in state funds, according to a statement released Thursday by NABU. The investigation is part of a larger effort by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his administration to crack down on corruption inside Kyiv’s government, Bloomberg reported on Friday. (RELATED: Chris Christie Visits Zelenskyy In Ukraine)
The inflated purchases were meant as humanitarian aid for areas in Ukraine hit hardest by the war, including the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, according to NABU.
“NABU and SAPO [Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office] exposed misappropriation worth UAH 62.5 million [$1.7 million] during Ukrzaliznytsia’s (Ukrainian Railways) procurement of food supplies for the population in a state of war,” NABU said. “Former and current high-ranking officials are involved in orchestrating the scheme.”
❗️Прямо зараз #ВАКС обирає запобіжний захід першому заступнику міністра агрополітики, якого підозрюють у зловживаннях на 62,5 млн грн при закупівлі продуктів харчування для потреб держави у період воєнного стану. Пропонуємо дізнатись про подробиці схеми👇https://t.co/mKjwjxoD7g
— NAB Ukraine (@nab_ukr) August 25, 2023
The investigation narrowed in on two senior officials who oversaw food purchases through the state-sponsored JSC Ukranian Railway company, NABU said. The investigators accused the two officials of intentionally purchasing the food at artificially inflated prices, despite having known that lower-price options were available.
Kyiv’s Ministry of Agriculture denied the accusations, chalking up the high-price pasta purchase to an “arithmetic mistake,” and noted the “fast-paced decision” was made during the early stages of the country’s war against Russia, according to a statement released Thursday. The ministry confirmed the probe had locked onto Vysotskyi, who denied the accusations of corruption and said he was fully cooperating with investigators.
NABU and SAPO’s investigation comes amid a larger effort by Zelenskyy to stifle corruption within Kyiv’s government, according to Bloomberg. Earlier this month, Zelenskyy discharged all military heads of recruitment for accusations of graft.
The Agriculture Ministry in Kyiv did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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