Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch with ties to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, could soon face extradition to the United States on bribery charges. Financial Times:
A Vienna court on Tuesday granted a request to extradite Dmitry Firtash, one of Ukraine’s richest and most powerful men, to the US on bribery charges, setting the stage for a potential US trial with ramifications stretching from Washington to Moscow.
Vienna prosecutors subsequently arrested the Ukrainian oligarch after the ruling on a separate European arrest warrant issued by Spain on money laundering charges. Austria’s justice ministry may now have to decide between the US and Spanish requests.
The developments are a dramatic setback for a mogul whose business and political relationships stretch from the top echelons of Russia and Ukraine to close associates of US President Donald Trump.
Firtash, a well-connected oligarch linked to former President Viktor Yanukovych, has been on the lam in Austria for three years, hiding out from an unfriendly political scene in Ukraine and defending himself against American bribery charges, which he has argued are politically motivated. Now that the U.S. extradition request has finally been granted, however, Firtash may receive intensified scrutiny.
As Jim Henry explained in these pages, Firtash once pursued a deal with Paul Manafort that some allege was an attempt to park his ill-gotten gains in New York real estate:
One of Manafort’s biggest clients was the dubious pro-Russian Ukrainian billionaire Dmytro Firtash. By his own admission, Firtash maintains strong ties with a recurrent figure on this scene, the reputed Ukrainian/Russian mob boss Semion Mogilevich. His most important other links are almost certainly to Putin. […]
In 2008, Manafort teamed up with a former manager of the Trump Organization to purchase the Drake Hotel in New York for up to $850 million, with Firtash agreeing to invest $112 million. According to a lawsuit brought against Manafort and Firtash, the key point of the deal was not to make a carefully-planned investment in real estate, but to simply launder part of the huge profits that Firtash had skimmed while brokering dodgy natural gas deals between Russia and Ukraine, with Mogilevich acting as a “silent partner.”
The charges brought by the U.S. against Firtash are not related to the Manafort deal, which ultimately fell through, and they long predate the emergence of Donald Trump on the American political scene. Still, the surprise news about Firtash’s extradition comes as another unwelcome development for an administration that is struggling to bury the narrative on its ties with Russia.