Ukrainian authorities have uncovered the misuse of $17.6 million during the preparations for and organization of the 2017 Eurovision song contest, held this May in the country’s capital of Kiev, an event wrapped in controversy.
The state audit service of Ukraine concluded that 468.7 million hryvnas ($17.6 million) earmarked for the contest was illegally spent or embezzled, the agency announced in a statement on its web site.
Among the examples of financial machinations related to the organization of the contest, the audit service mentioned a situation in which a company won a tender for supplying 1.2 million hryvna (~$45,000) worth of metal detectors and subsequently rented the equipment to the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA:PBC), the contest’s organizer on the Ukrainian side, for 2.7 million hryvnas (~$100,000).
According to the Ukrainian audit service, a large number of contracts related to the organization of the contest were struck with foreign companies, and it is impossible to track the cash spent under those contracts.
“The findings of the audit have been sent to law enforcement agencies, which should look into activities of some senior officials of UA:PBC, who were responsible for the organization and running of Eurovision 2017,” the audit service said in the statement.
This year’s song contest had stirred controversies since Ukraine won the right to host it thanks to the victory of singer Jamala in the 2016 contest, with a song about the 1944 deportation of Tatars from Crimea ordered by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
But the escalation reached its peak several weeks before the contest’s kickoff date this past May, when Ukraine banned the Russian entrant, wheelchair-bound Yulia Samoilova, from entering the country over her 2015 performance in Crimea, a peninsular region annexed by Russia.
Russia subsequently refused to replace Samoilova with another entrant and didn’t air the contest. The European Broadcasting Union, Eurovision’s organizer, fined Ukraine for reported €200,000 ($228,212) for the incident.