Gas titan Dmitry Firtash appears headed to Chicago to stand trial in titanium scandal

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Austria's Supreme Court has removed what is considered the final hurdle for Ukrainian gas mogul Dmitry Firtash to be extradited to Chicago where he was indicted six years ago on federal bribery racketeering charges.

Firtash has been under house arrest in Vienna since 2014 on $174 million bail. He is accused of running a global titanium mining racket for a deal that the I-Team has reported was with Chicago-based Boeing. The aerospace giant has not been implicated in the case. The scheme allegedly involved plans to pay bribes in India to mine titanium that would then be used in jet engine manufacture.

As a result of Tuesday's extradition decision, the rich industrialist is likely to to be in Chicago in a week or two, according to one of his attorneys in a recent court filing. Austria's Justice Minister Clemens Jabloner will now have final say on the logistics of whether the extradition moves forward according to the Austria Press Agency.

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Firtash has enlisted a high-powered legal tag team of to fight extradition and the U.S. charges. He is being defended by Dan Webb, former U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois and Lanny Davis, a prominent Washington, D.C. lawyer who recently worked on behalf of ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen. Webb and Davis have vigorously advocated for Firtash both in and out of court, contending that he has been wrongly charged in a city where he has never set foot. They have also forcefully batted off public allegations that Firtash is tied to American and Russian criminals and gangsters.

"We are disappointed in today's decision by the Austrian Supreme Court" said Webb and Davis in a statement released Tuesday morning after the decision was announced in Europe. "In any event, nothing has changed regarding Mr. Firtash's innocence and the absence of evidence that he is guilty of any crime.
He has never done business in the United States, never visited the United States, and had no knowledge of any plan to bribe Indian officials about an Indian titanium mine that never happened. Indeed, it is remarkable that in the entire indictment, U.S. prosecutors never charged Mr. Firtash - or anyone - with even paying a bribe - a fact largely unreported in the media."

The Firtash legal team says that despite an extradition loss "we are confident that a jury will find Mr. Firtash not guilty of all charges if and when he goes to trial."

In 2008 Firtash was involved in a potential hotel redevelopment deal with New York businessman Paul Manafort. The $895 million Manhattan project fell through. Manafort later became Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign chairman and is now in prison for financial crimes. Firtash's attorneys insist that his brief and unconsummated relationship with Manafort was not improper or illegal, and that it has no relevance to the current case in Chicago.

Firtash, 54, is considered one of the wealthiest and most powerful businessmen in Ukraine, with deep political connections from Kiev to the Kremlin and beyond. He has made a personal fortune on natural gas, chemical and metal mining deals and scattered other industries including broadcasting. House arrest, a U.S. extradition fight and a looming racketeering case in Chicago have no doubt put a crimp in the business affairs of Dmitry Firtash. Even though Tuesday's ruling by Austria's high court didn't go Firtash's way, he is now one step closer to resolving the legal knot that has bound him for six years.

Tuesday's decision in Austria follows a judge's order in Chicago last weekend denying Firtash's motion to dismiss the case here. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled that U.S. prosecutors had legal grounds to move forward in their case against the Ukrainian businessman. Following that ruling Firtash's attorney's issued a statement: "The court ruling here states only that the US prosecutors have jurisdiction to prosecute. It says nothing about guilt or innocence. We remain confident that Mr. Firtash, who is not accused in the indictment of paying any bribes and has never visited or done business in the United States, is innocent of these charges."
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