Top Russian space official charged with abuse of office

21st May 2015, Comments 0 comments

The former head of famed Russian space company Energia, which manufactures the Soyuz rockets, has been charged with abuse of power and placed under house arrest, a Moscow court said Thursday.

Vitaly Lopota, who as president of Energia was one of Russia's most senior space officials until last year, is suspected of approving unauthorised loans to an international space consortium.

"As a precaution, Vitaly Lopota has been assigned to house arrest until July 14, 2015," a spokeswoman for Moscow's Basmanny district court told Russian news agencies.

"He stands accused of abuse of power," the spokeswoman, Anna Fadeyeva, added.

Russia's Investigative Committee -- the country's equivalent of the FBI -- last year said Lopota had illegally authorised Energia to give loans to companies involved in the so-called Sea Launch consortium in which it was a major shareholder.

Sea Launch, which has faced severe financial problems, is an international service which launches rockets from a mobile sea platform.

Energia's money should have gone towards the manufacture of spaceships in line with international agreements, and the terms of the loans were also not beneficial to the company, the Investigative Committee said.

It said this had resulted in losses for the state, which partly owns Energia, of 41 million rubles ($820,000).

After becoming the subject of a criminal investigation, Lopota was removed from his post as president last August. He denies the allegations against him.

"Vitaly Lopota does not recognise any guilt," one of his representatives was quoted as telling Interfax news agency.

Energia traces its history back to the very dawn of Soviet spaceflight efforts in 1946 after World War II, and was behind the launch of the first satellite and man into space.

Since the retirement of the US shuttle, the Soyuz rocket-and-capsule system is the sole means for sending humans into space, responsible for transporting astronauts to the International Space Station.

© 2015 AFP

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