Russian contractor found guilty of cosmodrome fraud escapes with $3,000 fine

The former head of a Russian contractor who was charged with embezzling almost $6.5m during construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome has received a suspended sentence and a $3,000 fine.

The $3bn project, which aimed to give Russia its own spaceport following the break-up of the Soviet Union, became notorious for maladministration and mismanagement. One of the companies in the spotlight was Viktor Grebnev’s TMK (also known as the Pacific Bridge Construction Company), which allegedly owed its workers some £2.2m in unpaid wages when it was declared bankrupt 2015.

Grebnev was tried at the Ussuri District Court of Primorye in east Russia, accused of knowingly signing loss-making contracts and using company money to buy yachts and a mansion. In the event, he was found guilty of deliberately losing $2m, but sentenced to a five-year suspended sentence for "large-scale embezzlement".

His attorney Igor Polyakov attributed the light sentence to the state prosecution’s inability to prove his client’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He said: "If his guilt was obvious and he stole that much money, it would have been a long incarceration in a penal colony."

Grebnev, who maintained his innocence during the trial, told the court he was the sole shareholder of the company and would not rob himself.

Image: Vladimir Putin making a speech at the Cosmodrome in 2016 (Kremlin)

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