Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash trying to avoid extradition to the USAreferring to his status as an adviser to the Permanent Mission of Belarus to International Organizations in Vienna, which may grant him diplomatic immunity, writes “Ukrainian Truth” with reference to the decision of the Higher Regional Court of Vienna in criminal matters of 14 June, which turned out to be in Deutsche Welle (DW, recognized as a foreign agent in Russia).
Firtash is the founder and owner of the Group DF group of companies with assets in the energy, banking and chemical industries. Including he was associated with Rusukrenergowhich was a gas intermediary between Moscow and Kiev, reminiscent of “European Truth”.
In March 2014 he arrested in Austria at the request of the USA, but then released on bail in the amount of approximately € 125 million. According to the American investigation, since 2006, the “criminal group” headed by Firtash paid at least $18.5 million in bribes to obtain licenses for the extraction of titanium raw materials in India, which were going to be supplied to the American aircraft manufacturing corporation Boeing (the deal eventually did not take place).
In this situation, the United States used the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which has extraterritorial effect and applies if there is at least some connection with the jurisdiction of the United States. European Pravda points out that Firtash faces up to 50 years in prison and confiscation of assets. The question of his extradition to the United States has not yet been resolved.
It follows from the court decision that Firtash holds a position with an agency in the UN structure called the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). A note on the delegation of a businessman to this organization was transferred there in June 2021. As evidence that Firtash has diplomatic immunity, his lawyers attached the results of a legal examination prepared by one of the Western European professors of international law.
However, the Austrian Ministry of Justice insists that the businessman is not properly accredited to UNIDO, therefore diplomatic privileges, including immunity, do not apply to him. The lower courts took into account the position of the department, and the Supreme Land Court sent the case back for a new trial and ordered the court of first instance to make its decision on Firtash’s diplomatic immunity without taking into account the opinion of the Ministry of Justice.
RIA Novosti, 06/28/2023, “Firtash received a diplomatic post from Belarus, media write”: At the time of publication of the article, the Belarusian Embassy in Vienna did not give an answer to the publication what exactly Firtash does in the status of “adviser to the permanent mission of the Republic of Belarus to international organizations in the Austrian capital.” The note on the delegation of Firtash as a representative to UNIDO was transferred to the headquarters of the organization on June 29, 2021. It is on the basis of this status that Firtash demands to stop the extradition procedure, referring to “diplomatic immunity.” […]
“The government in Vienna does not consider a Ukrainian to be a person subject to the privileges of a diplomat, including legal immunity,” the publication explained.
“By a decision of June 14, the Vienna Higher Regional Court for Criminal Cases returned the case to the first instance, obliging the court to make an independent legal assessment, regardless of the position of the Austrian Ministry of Justice, whether to recognize Firtash’s diplomatic immunity. If the court recognizes a Ukrainian as a diplomat with all privileges, consideration of the case on his extradition will be suspended,” the publication summed up. Among other things, a representative of Firtash’s lawyers told the publication that the trials are not commented on. Thus, the question remained unanswered whether the appointment of Firtash as an adviser in Vienna was agreed with the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko or the government in Minsk. — Inset K.ru
SBU presented Dmitry Firtash with a new fraudulent scheme with gas for $483 million
In Ukraine, businessman Dmitry Firtash and eight top managers of companies are suspected of embezzling property on an especially large scale and money laundering, reports the Security Service of Ukraine.
In the morning, the heads of a number of companies were searched. Among them are top managers of the Regional Gas Company (RGK), which is associated with Firtash. It reportedly actually manages 20 city (gorgaz) and regional (oblgas) gas distribution network operators, which is 70% of all networks in the country. In March, searches were carried out in 16 regional gas enterprises and offices of RGCs.
“Firtash’s regional gas officials stole more than 70% of the funds that were supposed to be for the purchase of blue fuel. In fact, we are talking about embezzling money from ordinary Ukrainians who paid utility bills,” the report says.
The scheme was that the regional network operators “buy” fuel from a company controlled by Firtash. However, in reality they received less than 30% of the paid gas volume. The resulting deficit was covered at the expense of state gas: the regional gas companies simply took away the “under-received” fuel from the gas transportation system of Ukraine, the department says.
According to the SBU, referring to the lack of funds, regional gas companies paid the state operator of the Ukrainian GTS about 30% of the total cost of the selected gas. As a result of illegal activities in 2021, damage to the state was inflicted in the amount of 4.2 billion hryvnia (more than $112 million). The total amount of damage for 2016-2022, according to preliminary estimates, may amount to more than 18 billion hryvnia ($483 million).
“The figurants withdrew money into the shadows through a network of commercial structures controlled by the oligarch. From year to year, they increased the damage caused to the state,” the report says.
The SBU also released what it claims are phone records of Firtash and one of his subordinates, Aleksey Tyutyunnik, in which, according to investigators, the businessman gives instructions aimed at protecting his assets from seizure and attempts to hide funds.
The SBU reported suspicion to three defendants in the case, five in absentia, as they are abroad. The issue of putting them on the international wanted list is being resolved.
Firtash is the owner of energy and industrial enterprises in various countries of the world. He became widely known in the 2000s, having created, together with Gazprom, the RosUkrEnergo company, which acted as an intermediary in the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine to the EU countries. In various journalistic investigations, he appeared as a person acting in the interests of Russia or Russian companies, he himself denied this.
In 2018 Present Tense and “Municipal Scanner” published an investigation about how the Crimean Titan plant, its former owner, Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash, and the current owner, a business partner of Firtash, circumvent European sanctions against Crimea. The businessman has been in Austria since 2014 due to possible extradition to the United States, where he is accused of corruption. A decision on his extradition has not yet been made.