Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition to Chicago angling for misdemeanor deal

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff and Christine Tressel WLS logo
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Ukraine oligarch fighting Chicago extradition angling for misdemeanor
Dmitry Firtash, an oligarch from Ukraine was accused of a scheme involving Boeing and India. He's now angling for a misdemeanor deal in Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's a case laced with international intrigue: After nine years of fighting extradition to Chicago, Dmitry Firtash is now hoping for a misdemeanor plea deal to get out from underneath racketeering and bribery-related charges in the city.

The mega-wealthy industrial magnate is spending a small fortune to try to make a deal with the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

The I-Team has learned Firtash has hired a well-known Texas middle-man to possibly obtain a non-felony plea deal in a major Chicago criminal case.

Firtash was arrested in 2014 after a Chicago grand jury indicted him in an alleged scheme to bribe government officials in India.

Even though Firtash has never been to Chicago, prosecutors in the city said the scheme involved at least $18.5 million in corrupt payments linked to a titanium deal with Chicago-based Boeing.

The aviation giant hasn't been charged with wrongdoing.

So, for almost nine years, the Ukrainian oligarch has been holed up in Austria, fighting extradition to Chicago.

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"I don't feel I did anything wrong. I've said many times, I spoke and I said that the opinion of Chicago U.S. attorneys is unfair. It has no right to accuse me of this, and I find it, the matter, to be empty," Firtash told the I-Team last year.

The I-Team has learned Firtash has hired former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes to help him circumvent Chicago prosecutors by coming straight to Main Justice in Washington.

According to federally required foreign agent papers, Barnes is "working on behalf of Mr. Firtash in negotiating a plea deal" and trying to "secure a meeting with the Department of Justice and Mr. Firtash's attorneys."

Barnes is considered well-connected in Washington and has a rich Texas political pedigree that goes back decades. He now runs a well-known D.C. crisis management firm.

In the engagement letter, Barnes agrees to "negotiate a resolution of the matter that does not include Mr. Firtash pleading guilty to a felony."

Compensation to Barnes includes "a payment of $100,000" and "another $100,000 per month for two more months of work."

Barnes is currently out of the office on a medical leave and was unavailable for an interview.

Firtash's Chicago attorney, Dan Webb, who would defend Firtash at trial if one occurs, declined to comment on the pending case.

The U.S. attorney in Chicago has not responded on this latest development.