August 12, 2009:
Russian prosecutors are trying to find out who ordered the sale (as government surplus) of four MiG-31 fighters for $5 each. Even though the aircraft were being sold without engines or weapons, they were still worth nearly $4 million each. While the sale was ordered (by a government agency that disposes of surplus equipment) two years ago, it was never completed. All the prosecutors and their investigators have is paperwork ordering the transfer of the four aircraft to what appears to be a shell corporation. The four MiG-31s are still sitting at the plant where they were manufactured, and left in limbo. No one wanted the MiG-31s when the Cold War ended nearly 20 years ago, and Russia could not afford to equip them with engines and weapons.
There's more to this mystery. The paperwork ordering the low cost transfer, cannot be traced back to an individual. Or at least not traced back to anyone who will admit they authorized the $5 sales. What the prosecutors do know is that the Russian military, and defense industries, have lost billions of dollars worth of weapons, equipment and even cash, since the Cold War ended, in similar scams. The problem is that there are no accounting controls on such thefts, which are usually not discovered until after the thieves had got away, and covered their tracks.