WASHINGTON, September 18 (RIA Novosti)
A group of US lawmakers is urging Attorney General Eric Holder to assist the Pentagon’s criminal investigation into an Army aviation unit which granted contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to Russian and US firms for the maintenance and overhaul of Russian Mi-17 helicopters.
Nine senators and 23 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Holder Monday expressing ‘great concern’ regarding allegations of criminal activity related to the helicopter program, writing that “The prospect that American taxpayers have been made into unwitting victims of corruption demands special scrutiny.”
The lawmakers urged Holder "to utilize all available resources, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation to support any criminal investigation into these matters."
Defense Department investigators are studying potential personal connections and possibly “improper” payments between the former head of the Army’s Non-Standard Rotary Wing Aircraft (NSRWA) unit and two Russian-owned subcontractors, Avia Baltika and St. Petersburg Aircraft Repair Co. (SPARC), according to Reuters.
The maintenance deals under investigation are part of a broader Pentagon program to purchase and upgrade Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters for use in Afghanistan.
The lawmakers’ letter to Holder also said, “Since 2011, NSRWA has negotiated and executed more than $1 billion worth of contracts for procurement of these Russian aircraft from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-controlled arms exporter who simultaneously continues to supply weapons and ammunition to the Syrian government.”
There has been stern opposition from some members of Congress to the Pentagon’s dealings with Rosoboronexport, which is not a focus of the investigation, according to Reuters.
Justice Department spokesman Michael Passman said in an email cited by Reuters Tuesday: "We have received the letter, and we are reviewing it."