Russia arrests ex-nuclear official 'for stealing research'

20th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Wednesday announced the arrest of one its most senior former nuclear officials for allegedly pocketing state research grants and stealing other people's work off the Internet.

The Rosatom state nuclear corporation said deputy general director Yevgeny Yevstratov oversaw a team of scientists that received 50 million rubles ($1.7 million) in research assistance before being sacked this year.

"However, instead of doing their own research, the corporation's employees downloaded scientific material off the Internet and pretended this was their own know-how," said the interior ministry's economic crimes chief Denis Sugrobov.

"And they pocketed the money," Sugrobov told the RIA Novosti news agency.

A Rosatom official said the vast agency -- a successor to the Soviet Union's nuclear energy ministry that now oversees a web of reactors and research institutes -- was fighting corruption within its ranks "continually".

"We have given the law enforcement authorities details about nine (corruption) cases in the first six months of the year alone," said Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov.

"Criminal charges have already been filed in three of these cases -- this one included," he told AFP.

Novikov added that the first arrests in these investigations came in the Murmansk region near Norway in September and that more than 30 "top managers" had been let go due to graft last year.

"None of this is very surprising," said the Rosatom spokesman. "These arrests were made with the help of our own investigation."

The agency has been working hard to polish its image in the wake of the Japanese earthquake that damaged the Fukushima plant and renewed world doubts about the merits of nuclear power.

Police officials said Yevstratov was effectively responsible for making sure that each of the hundreds of Rosatom facilities operated at safe radiation levels.

They added that these charges and a second set of crimes allegedly committed by Yevstratov's team in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg could land him in prison for up to 10 years.

Rosatom said Yevstratov served as a deputy general director of Rosatom between 2008 and April 2011 before being removed "in connection with a transfer to a different job".

President Dmitry Medvedev's modernisation drive has been battling the waste and inefficiency characteristic of some of Russia's largest enterprises.

Rosatom's Public Council oversight body member Sergei Kuznetsov said he was not too surprised to hear about the arrest because Yevstratov rarely came up with new ideas.

"There are certain websites ... that regularly ran articles related to what he did," the Rosatom Public Council member said.

© 2011 AFP

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