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Ukrainian oligarch Dymitro Firtash faces U.S. extradition over bribery charges

Ukrainian oligarch Dymitro Firtash faces U.S. extradition over bribery charges”

He was indicted by a US grand jury for his alleged involvement in paying $18.5 million in bribes to Indian officials, through USA banks, to facilitate a $500 million titanium mining project in India.

One of Ukraine's most influential businessmen, Firtash, 51, is well connected both in Moscow and with Ukrainian politicians opposed to the Kremlin.

US prosecutors, in 2015 court filings, submitted wiretaps they said demonstrated Firtash's involvement with organized crime.

Previously, in 2015, an Austrian judge refused the US extradition request.

Shortly after Tuesday's court ruling however, he was taken into custody on what prosecution spokeswoman Nina Bussek said was a warrant from Spanish law enforcement officials.

Austria's Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter told broadcaster ORF the extradition would not be implemented until a court had reviewed the Spanish case. One of the destinations for the titanium was IL, leading to Firtash and five business partners facing charges in the U.S.

He earned much of his wealth from a 45 percent ownership share of RosUkrEnergo, a company that served as the exclusive middleman between Russia's Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz gas company.

The Ukrainian magnate backed Yanukovych's successful 2010 election campaign, which saw him go on to expand his business interests.

After Tuesday's proceedings, the Austrian authorities arrested Firtash in connection with a separate criminal case in Spain, where he has been charged in connection with money laundering.

Observers say USA authorities want to detain Firtash because he holds information on close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He denied the charges, calling them politically motivated by the United States.

"He is very valuable not only as a defendant but as witness too".

Both men - along with many other powerful people in Ukraine and Russian Federation - may feel uncomfortable over what Mr Firtash could reveal to the United States authorities if Austria does extradite him.

Mr Firtash's five-man legal team, led by former Austrian justice minister Dieter Boehmdorfer, told the court the USA wanted to sideline their client as part of a strategy to reduce perceived Russian influence in Ukraine. "We remain confident that Mr. Firtash's innocence will be proven".



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