Opposition MP Faces Legal Action Over ‘Breach of Contract’

ST. PETERSBURG, April 30 (RIA Novosti) – The Skolkovo Foundation is suing opposition lawmaker Ilya Ponomaryov, the foundation’s president Viktor Vekselberg said on Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed with Moscow’s Gagarinsky District Court and accepted for consideration on Friday, billionaire Vekselberg said.

He did not specify what the claims were against Ponomaryov, who supported last year’s anti-Kremlin protests.

A court press secretary told the RAPSI legal news agency on Tuesday that the claim had been received, but not yet processed.

Under the Russian Civil Code, courts have five days to decide on whether to proceed with a lawsuit.

Earlier this month, Russian investigators opened a criminal case against the Skolkovo Foundation’s vice president, Alexei Beltyukov, on suspicion that he embezzled $750,000 of foundation money that he allegedly paid to Ponomaryov between February 2011 and February 2012 for a series of lectures and research projects.

Ponomaryov said on Tuesday he had not expected the Skolkovo Foundation, which manages the eponymous high-tech innovation hub, to sue him, but added he was sure he would be able to prove there were no grounds for any claims against him, since he has completely fulfilled his obligations under the disputed contract.

Ponomaryov was paid $300,000 to deliver 10 lectures in various Russian cities, and another $450,000 for scientific and research work, the Investigative Committee said earlier this month. Investigators said they were looking into the deal to check how much of the work Ponomaryov has fulfilled.

Beltyukov has denied the allegations, saying the foundation hired and paid Ponomaryov legally, while Ponomaryov has dismissed the case as “politically motivated.”

Investigators said the probe was opened following accusations by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who claimed Ponomaryov was involved in illegal business activities.

The Skolkovo hub, a pet project of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev opened during his presidency in 2010, is often called Russia’s “Silicon Valley” and was intended to lead the country’s drive to diversify and modernize its economy and increase the output of high-tech products.

The foundation has come under the scrutiny of investigators more than once recently, with several senior officials being accused of corruption.

Earlier this month, police and Federal Security Service (FSB) officers searched the foundation’s headquarters in Moscow as part of an ongoing investigation into the possible embezzlement of millions of rubles by senior Skolkovo managers.

Former Skolkovo senior manager Kirill Lugovtsev and the head of the foundation’s subsidiary Skolkovo Innovation Center Customs Finance Company (TFK Skolkovo) Vladimir Khokhlov have been accused of involvement in the embezzlement of 24 million rubles (about $760,000) from federal budget funds.

The Investigative Committee has also said it is examining information from the FSB indicating that 3.5 billion rubles in federal funds provided to Skolkovo stayed parked in a bank account for a long period of time.

Ponomaryov suggested the series of allegations indicate two ongoing campaigns, “on the one hand against the opposition and on the other hand against the modernization of the economy.” He did not say who might be behind the efforts.

Leave a comment