Russian thread runs through Chicago extradition case

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A former business partner to a top Trump campaign official and alleged ties to Russian organized crime punctuate Chicago bribe case. (WLS)

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Chicago is not Dimitry Firtash's kind of town.

The Ukrainian industrialist has been fighting efforts by U.S. prosecutors to bring him to Chicago and put him on trial for bribery.

That battle comes to a head on Monday afternoon in Chicago federal court.

Firtash, a wealthy businessman and "oligarch" who is also described by federal authorities as a top-tier Russian mob associate, will not be in court. He is still in Vienna, Austria free on $174 million bond but existing in what amounts to legal limbo while the extradition skirmish plays out.

He is charged with bribing Indian officials for a lucrative mining deal and then plotting to sell the titanium to Chicago-based Boeing.

Firtash, 52, is also a former business associate of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The two were involved in a never-consummated deal to buy a New York hotel back in 2008. Manafort is not charged or named in the Chicago case-but the current investigation of Russian political influence in Washington has piqued interest in the Firtash case.

The Ukrainian magnate is represented in Chicago by Dan Webb, formerly U.S. attorney here. On Monday Mr. Webb will argue for dismissal of the charges-contending Firtash has never even been in Chicago and that the U.S. has no legitimate interest in prosecuting the case.

"Firtash is weeks or months away from extradition to stand trial here because Austria has already made a final decision that extradition is permissible" Webb stated in his most recent motion to dismiss. "The Court should determine now whether it has jurisdiction and venue over his case" Webb said.

His co-defendant Andras Knopp will be absent from court as well on Monday and also about 5000 miles away-in Moscow where he lives. Knopp, a former Hungarian official and businessman, is also trying to have the case against him thrown out. His attorneys say that the government has unfairly cast him as a fugitive-even though no actual extradition effort has been made against him.

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