MOSCOW Feb 13 Russian authorities are
investigating two Skolkovo officials after auditors uncovered
suspected embezzlement of budget funds, in a setback to a plan
to create a Silicon Valley-style technology hub outside Moscow.
A pet project of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Skolkovo
was set up in 2010 to help incubate innovative companies in
high-tech industries as part of efforts to diversify the oil and
gas-dependent Russian economy.
While Skolkovo has won backing from more than 20 global
high-tech giants such as Microsoft and Cisco,
many observers say that a broader state-led drive to diversify
the economy is delivering poor results.
Russia's Investigative Committee said in a statement it had
opened a criminal investigation into the Skolkovo Foundation's
finance director, Kirill Lugovtsev, and the head of the Skolkovo
Customs Finance Company Vladimir Khokhlov, among others.
The opening of such an investigation in Russia would
typically, but not necessarily, precede the filing of criminal
The investigators said they suspected around 24 million
roubles ($800,000) allocated to develop Skolkovo had been
stolen, adding documents provided by the state Audit Chamber and
the Federal Security Service were the basis for the case.
The Audit Chamber has revealed violations in respect of 1.4
billion roubles of funds, business daily Vedomosti reported. A
spokeswoman for the chamber declined to comment, saying the
results of the Skolkovo audit were deemed classified
Alexander Chernov, vice president of the Skolkovo Foundation
in charge of communications, declined to comment on the criminal
case. He said Lugovtsev had left the foundation, while Khokhlov
was still in the job but was on temporary leave.
Neither Lugovtsev nor Khokhlov could immediately be reached
The Investigative Committee, Russia's counterpart to the
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, is a government agency
that reports to President Vladimir Putin.