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10 Jan, 2019 14:21

‘Russian Hubble’ observatory project bogged in embezzlement probe – report

‘Russian Hubble’ observatory project bogged in embezzlement probe – report

Crooks may have embezzled at least $425,000 of Russian budget money allocated for a $30-million project to create a UV-range space observatory. A police probe into the suspected crime was reportedly launched last month.

The Russia-led multimillion dollar-led international corroboration called Spektr-UV is aimed at building and placing into orbit an instrument of similar design to NASA’s famous Hubble Space Telescope.

The Russian counterpart is to have a 1.7-meter primary mirror and will produce images in the 110nm to 320nm wavelength range. Germany and Spain are involved in the project, producing spectrographs for the telescope while Russia is handling the assembly of the craft and its launch.

The observatory was supposed to be placed in orbit years ago, but the launch was postponed several times and is now expected sometime before 2024.

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Now, the project is reportedly facing yet another setback – of a criminal nature. According to a report published by Kommersant, a popular Russian newspaper, police are investigating suspected embezzlement in relation to the project.

The assembly of the telescope is being done by the NPO Lavochkin, a state-owned Russian space developer. Investigators believe that some of its employees embezzled about $425,000 by signing a fraudulent contract with a subcontractor for work, which was actually done on site by Lavochkin staff, and pocketing the money, the newspaper said, citing its sources.

“The estimate of the damage is preliminary and may be higher,” Kommersant cited its source as saying.

The probe was launched in late December and so far has no suspects, but police sources say some individuals will be charged soon, once evidence against them is solidified. It was not immediately clear if the probe or the suspected crime would affect the timetable for Spektr-UV.

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