MOSCOW, April 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russian law enforcement officers searched the offices of the Skolkovo Foundation in Moscow, a centerpiece of the government’s high-tech development drive, as part of an on-going inquiry into embezzlement by a former official, a foundation representative said on Thursday.
The Skolkovo representative told RIA Novosti that police and Federal Security Service (FSB) officers came in the morning, gathered the foundation’s staff in a conference room and asked everyone to turn over their cell phones. By early afternoon, investigators were talking to the foundation’s president, billionaire businessman Viktor Vekselberg.
The Investigative Committee confirmed on Thursday its representatives had come to inspect the fund’s premises, but declined to specify exactly what investigators were looking for.
The Skolkovo representative quoted state officials saying the searches were in connection with a criminal case announced in February against a senior former Skolkovo manger, Kirill Lugovtsev, and Vladimir Khokhlov, head of the Skolkovo Innovation Center Customs Finance Company, or TFK Skolkovo, a subsidiary of the foundation, over their alleged role in the embezzlement of 24 million rubles ($800,000) from budget funds.
Lugovtsev is suspected of using the money from Skolkovo to rent a building from a company owned by his parents.
According to Skolkovo, Lugovtsev “had to leave his post” after an internal audit in fall 2012. Shortly after the latest investigation was opened, he was suspended from his post at Russia’s energy agency, Rosenergo.
Skolkovo Foundation, set up in 2010 by then President Dmitry Medevedev, is the primary agency for the Skolkovo high-tech development district, including a business center, science and technology institute and management school. Intended to be a showcase element of the drive to diversify and modernize the economy, progress in developing Skolkovo has been slow, amid allegations of malfeasance around the project.