Austria rejects US demand to extradite Ukraine oligarch
A court in Austria has rejected the US demand to extradite Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash over graft charges.
“The US request has been denied,” said Judge Christoph Bauer after more than 12 hours of proceedings in the Austrian capital city of Vienna on Thursday, adding that the court was under “no political influence” and issued the verdict “on a legal and factual basis.”
The judge also stated that the US demand lacked substantial evidence.
Meanwhile, Christina Salzborn, the court spokeswoman, said the US lawsuit against the 49-year-old billionaire was “also politically motivated.”
Firtash, who backed Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovych during his electoral campaign in 2010, was indicted in 2013 by a US grand jury in Chicago for allegedly bribing several Indian officials through US banks in an attempt to obtain titanium mining licenses in the Asian country.
He was detained last March in Vienna, but was later released on a USD 140 million bail. However, he was denied permission to leave Austria.
According to the court’s Thursday ruling, Firtash can now leave the country, but the bail is still in place and he must be reachable through his attorneys.
During the court session, Firtash rejected the US allegations as “totally absurd” while his lawyers added that the US judiciary had an axe to grind in Firtash’s case considering his support for anti-Western Yanukovych, who was a staunch ally of Kremlin.
US Department of Justice spokesman said that Washington will appeal the verdict.
“We are disappointed with the court’s ruling and have filed an appeal,” Peter Carr pointed out.
Yanukovych was ousted following western-backed protests in February 2014 after he refrained from signing an Association Agreement with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia. He moved to Russia after the foreign-led overthrow.