Russian diplomats accused of Medicaid fraud in U.S. to be subjected to disciplinary action at home – Lavrov

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MOSCOW. Dec 16 (Interfax) – Moscow is already taking disciplinary measures in relation to the Russian diplomats accused in the U.S. of unlawfully receiving Medicaid benefits to cover the pregnancy and childbirth costs, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“This is a disciplinary offence, because, by being insincere in filing applications and citing inaccurate figures to receive some benefits, they violated the host country’s norms and rules, which a diplomat has no right to do. I’d like to stress once again: they are being subjected and will be subjected to disciplinary action,” Lavrov said on Rossiya-24 news television channel on Saturday.

“Most of the 49 individuals in question left the U.S. long ago. Eleven people were still there at the moment this news was made public. All of them have either moved to Russia already or are to be back soon,” he added.

“We have looked into this. First, the allegation that none of them was entitled to this because they are foreigners is wrong. There are different laws in various states of the U.S. that allow for using Medicaid benefits by foreigners. Second, it is not quite true that the Russian diplomats’ incomes did not make them eligible for receiving such payments through Medicaid,” he said.

“We have studied the files of the said colleagues, and it turned out that at least some of them had salaries that entitled them to apply for such assistance from the U.S. fund at that moment. Of course, I am talking not about all these employees but about a small number of them. And this happened about ten years ago – after all, the Americans started following this issue in 2004. By the way, this is a special aspect of the situation characterizing them in a certain way,” he said.

“Since then, the salaries have been raised. It’s true, though, that an overwhelming majority of those mentioned by the Americans were earning more in 2004 than what they stated in the applications for covering childbirth costs. This is a disciplinary offence, which will entail – and is already entailing – disciplinary action,” he said.

Lavrov also said he could not understand why the U.S. has been waiting for nearly 10 years to make the problem public.

“If diplomats are caught breaking the host country’s norms of behavior and laws, why wait for ten years? They’ve been spinning up this affair since 2004. Perhaps they wanted to accumulate more counts so that the figure should look more impressive. If they had told us back in 2004 that some employee wanted to get what he wasn’t entitled to, perhaps we’d have sorted it out with this employee somehow. But no, they’ve accumulated nearly fifty people – perhaps to make it sound louder. Waited for ten years,” he said.

“Foreign diplomats, including American ones, quite regularly commit offences against Russian law. We don’t try to make an information bomb out of this but immediately address the embassy and try to settle the problem without any publicity and hype. I think the Americans should have acted the same way in this situation. But they’ve chosen a different path,” Lavrov said.