Austria approves US extradition for Ukrainian oligarch

Ukrainian oligarch Dymitro Firtash waits for the start of his trial at the courts of justice in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. Firtash was arrested in Vienna in March 2014 on an American warrant charging him with bribery and other offenses. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Ukrainian oligarch Dymitro Firtash arrives for the start of his trial at the courts of justice in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. Firtash was arrested in Vienna in March 2014 on an American warrant charging him with bribery and other offenses. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

VIENNA — An Austrian court on Tuesday approved a U.S. extradition request for a Ukrainian oligarch suspected of paying millions of dollars in bribes to Indian officials.

The court decision overturns a lower court ruling nearly two years ago against extraditing Dymitro Firtash. The judge then said that the U.S. move was at least partially politically motivated through links to political events in Ukraine, and not supported by sufficient evidence.

Extradition, however, is still not a certainty. Leo Levnaic-Iwanski, who headed the three-judge panel of the Upper State Court, said the final decision will be made by Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter.

Firtash was indicted in Chicago by a U.S. grand jury in 2012 for allegedly paying off officials through U.S. banks in a failed attempt to secure titanium mining rights in India worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Arrested a year later in Vienna, he posted bail of 125 million euros (more than $130 million) shortly afterward, leaving him free but unable to leave Austria.

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.

She gave no details but told the Austria Press Agency that the timing had nothing to do with the Austrian court decision. Instead, she said, it was triggered by the receipt of "supplementary information from Spanish authorities."

One of Ukraine's most influential businessmen, Firtash, 51, is well connected both in Moscow and with Ukrainian politicians opposed to the Kremlin. He earned millions of dollars in the natural gas trading sector under deposed pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

News reports tie him to business dealings with lobbyist Paul Manafort, an adviser to Donald Trump during his U.S. presidential election campaign. Manafort also advised Yanukovych during a re-election bid.

Austrian Judge Christoph Bauer suggested in 2015 that the extradition request for Firtash was linked to attempts to weaken Yanukovych by stripping him of a key ally.

A court statement summarizing Tuesday's ruling focused on the U.S. accusations in overturning Bauer's decision, saying "the crimes Firtash is accused of have no political character."

People also read these

The Latest: Armenia lawmakers reject opposition...

May 1, 2018

The Armenian parliament has voted against naming protest leader Nikol Pashinian as the country's...

OPEC, allies says production cuts ahead of...

Jan 22, 2017

OPEC and key non-OPEC oil producers seeking to push up the price of crude by cutting production say...

Report: Ownership of Hitler's house to go to...

Jan 30, 2017

An Austrian newspaper reports that the owner of the house where Adolf Hitler was born is going to...

AP Interview: Austrian minister says less is more...

Mar 17, 2017

Austria's foreign minister suggests that less is more when it comes to the European Union

Lack of German means Turk must vacate Austrian...

Apr 3, 2017

Alihan Turgut has dished out falafel for more than a decade to townsfolk of Wiener Neustadt, but...

Sign up now!

About Us

24-7 Reporters publishes up-to-the-minute news 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our certified reporters are among the most experienced, well-trained and talented across the globe, covering issues resonating progressives in every corner of the world.

Contact us: sales[at]24-7reporters.com