Football: Russia probes World Cup stadium graft

Russia launched a probe on Wednesday into alleged graft committed during the much-delayed construction of a new Zenit Saint Petersburg football stadium that is due to host a part of the 2018 World Cup.

Russia's Investigative Committee put the amount believed to have been stolen at hundreds of millions of rubles (tens of millions of dollars) without disclosing who was the target of the probe.

The Izvestia daily cited a prosecutor's office source as saying that 500 million rubles ($16.7 million) had been embezzled from the club so far.

Zenit -- Russia's two-time defending champion from President Vladimir Putin's native city and one of the nation's richest clubs -- began building its new stadium in 2007 after winning a sponsorship deal with the natural gas giant Gazprom.

The original project needed to be revised in 2010 when Russia had to expand several of its planned and existing stadiums after winning the rights to host football's showpiece event for the first time.

Russian media have since alleged that the club has had to pay massive kickbacks to local officials in order to secure the documents necessary to make changes to the original stadium plan.