The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 1, 2014

Odd couple at center of Russian helicopter inquiry


William Bain, then a senior manager at Northrop Grumman, wrote in a February 2010 memo that the access denial "clearly demonstrates that AviaBaltika and SPARC are totally unfit to be entrusted with business that can flow down to them on behalf of the U.S. government."

Borisov's companies ran afoul of the Russian government, too. The companies shipped two military choppers for repair work in Russia, but claimed the helicopters were commercial models because the companies were not authorized to perform overhauls on military aircraft.

A memo signed by Borisov's son, Pavel, Avia Baltika's president and financial director, stated the copters "belong to civilian category and have no restrictions for import and export to Russia."

Russian authorities also determined the logbooks the companies provided for the Mi-17s "were not authentic," the audit said. The Russian government considered the breach to be a serious matter and brought the illegal shipments to the attention of U.S. defense officials in late 2010.

A few months later, U.S. government management and oversight of the AviaBaltika and SPARC's overhaul work shifted to an Army acquisition office in Huntsville headed by Vergez.

At about that same time, March 2011, Vergez's name became connected to a house owned by Pavel Borisov in Huntsville's exclusive Ledges neighborhood. Borisov sold the four-bedroom home at 3 Chittamwood Drive in June 2013 for $725,000, according to the Madison County, Ala., tax assessor's office. It's unclear whether Vergez ever lived there or why his name was registered at the address. Pavel Borisov did not respond to emails from AP.

The connection should have set off alarms inside the Army, said Neil Gordon of the Project on Government Oversight, an independent watchdog group in Washington. Military officers are supposed to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

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