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24 Feb, 2024 15:18

Pentagon investigating 50 cases of Ukraine aid fraud

In one instance, shipping manifests were mysteriously changed before arms packages reached the country
Pentagon investigating 50 cases of Ukraine aid fraud

The Pentagon’s inspector general has opened more than 50 cases into possible “theft, fraud or corruption, and diversion” of military aid to Ukraine. Allegations of graft surfaced almost immediately after the aid began flowing to Kiev and Inspector General Robert Storch has declared that more investigations are likely to follow.

Speaking at a briefing on Thursday, Storch said that though no allegations have been substantiated yet, “that may well change in the future,” according to Bloomberg. Additional investigations will be necessary “given the quantity and speed” of weapons being sent to Ukraine, he noted.

One case highlighted by Storch involved unidentified items arriving in Poland as part of a wider weapons shipment, before disappearing from a shipping manifest when they were sent across the border into Ukraine in June.

While the case of the disappearing equipment was highlighted in a report by Storch’s office last year, the inspector did not say at the time whether the items had been lost or stolen. Instead, his office stated that Pentagon personnel “did not have required visibility and accountability of all types of equipment during the transfer process.”

None of Storch’s reports to date have identified any outright criminality. However, Thursday’s announcement marks the first time he has acknowledged that his office is probing potential cases of “procurement fraud, product substitution, theft, fraud or corruption, and diversion.”

In the two years since Russia’s military operation in Ukraine began, the US has spent roughly $113 billion on military, economic, and humanitarian aid for Kiev. Around $45 billion of that amount has been spent on weapons, ammo, and other military support for Kiev’s forces.

In the summer of 2022, a CBS News report suggested that only around 30% of the weapons sent by the West actually made it to the front lines in Ukraine. Around the same time, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu warned that weapons intended for Ukraine were showing up in Middle Eastern arms bazaars. 

Storch’s office has since deployed more than two dozen people to Ukraine to track US arms shipments. However, allegations of corruption have continued to surface, with the graft often beginning before supplies even enter the country. Last month, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced the uncovering of a major embezzlement ring at the country’s Defense Ministry. According to the SBU, five suspects attempted to steal 1.5 billion hryvnia (around $39.6 million) in state funds intended for the purchase of mortar shells. 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov was dismissed from his post over graft allegations in September. His successor, Rustem Umerov, announced in January that an audit had revealed $262 million in theft-related costs in weapons procurement.

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