'Enough is enough' says Ukrainian oligarch, charged 10 years ago in mysterious Chicago bribe case

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Tuesday, March 12, 2024
'Enough is enough' says Ukrainian oligarch in Chicago bribe case
A Ukrainian oligarch/businessman, Dmitry Firtash, has been stuck in time as Chicago prosecutors hold his destiny in their hands.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The world has changed so much in the past decade: from a pandemic to presidents and wars. Even as Dmitry Firtash has watched events unfold around him, including his motherland of Ukraine fighting for its life, the wealthy oligarch/businessman has been stuck in time -- and stuck in Austria -- as Chicago prosecutors hold his destiny in their hands.

Firtash was arrested in Europe 10 years ago Tuesday by U.S. law enforcement, who wanted to simply and quickly accomplish his extradition to Chicago, where a federal grand jury had indicted the mega-millionaire on charges involving an alleged and intricate business bribery scheme.

But Firtash, and justice authorities in Austria where he was picked up, had other ideas about the ease of extradition.

RELATED: Exclusive interview: Ukrainian businessman fights Chicago extradition as war rages on

Exactly 10 years later, a man used to private jets, yachts and globetrotting in high style, was effectively a prisoner never convicted of a crime.

"Today, March 12, 2024, marks a decade since Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian national, was arrested in Vienna, Austria at the request of the United States government -- all based on a 2013 indictment out of Chicago related to a project in India that allegedly began in 2005 and never went forward" said Dan Webb, a prominent Chicago defense attorney and former United States attorney, who has represented Firtash for years. "The U.S. government requested that Austrian authorities arrest Firtash and extradite him to the U.S., even though Firtash had never stepped foot in the U.S., doesn't speak English and hadn't done any business in the U.S. The U.S. government has thus forced Firtash to spend the last 10 years in Austria, without the ability to leave, exercising his legal right to contest extradition to a country he's never even visited."

The case against Firtash has been a mystery since it was filed without fanfare a decade ago. He was hardly a household name at the time, at least not in Chicago. It involved an alleged scheme to bribe government officials in India. Prosecutors maintain the plots involved at least $18.5 million in corrupt payments linked to a titanium deal with Chicago-based Boeing: the aviation giant that hasn't been charged with wrongdoing in the Firtash matter.

"Since his arrest, Firtash has twice prevailed before Austrian courts, despite U.S. efforts to extradite him. The Austrian trial court found no basis for the U.S. allegations against Firtash, denying extradition in 2015," Webb said in a statement to be released later on Wednesday but obtained by the ABC7 I-Team.

SEE ALSO: Dmitry Firtash, Ukrainian oligarch wanted in Chicago, now wanted for embezzling $485M from homeland

After years of appeals, the Austrian appellate court reopened the extradition proceedings against Firtash to start all over again in 2023, finding that the evidence warranted reopening the case to determine whether the U.S. government's request to extradite Firtash is and was improperly motivated by politics.

During an exclusive interview with the I-Team in June 2022, Firtash, speaking from Vienna, Austria, said that he would continue to fight extradition, but, if he lost, would "stand in front of the court in Chicago," and answer questions from federal prosecutors. Firtash said that the case is "empty" and "unfair." Pointed words continue from his legal team in Chicago a decade later.

"In the strongest of terms, Firtash has consistently maintained his innocence in this objectively curious and old case which has no legitimate connection to the U.S. or Chicago," Webb said. "For example, the case includes five other foreign national defendants whom the U.S. government indicted on the same charges but has never seriously tried to extradite to the U.S. And while the allegations in the indictment claim to relate to a project that was to take place wholly in India starting almost 20 years ago, Indian authorities have never brought charges against anyone in relation to the project, even quashing any attempt to detain one of Firtash's alleged Indian national co-defendants in a court order issued on April 28, 2014, by the High Court of Judicature of Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad."

RELATED: Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition to Chicago angling for misdemeanor deal

Webb and Matthew Carter, his partner on the case, both from Chicago firm Winston and Strawn, contend that the U.S. government should now "reevaluate the strength of this stale case and recognize what both the Austrian courts and Indian authorities have long recognized, the evidence (which we have continued to develop and has strengthened Firtash's position over the last 10 years) shows that the case against Firtash has no merit, and there is no basis to force Firtash to the U.S."

If Firtash were to leave Austria, the extradition hold placed on him by Austrian authorities would vanish, and he would be subject to a flight to Chicago and trial at the Dirksen federal building. So, with a decade behind him, he continues to sit and wait, as his 11th year in effective captivity begins.

"The U.S. government has thus cost Firtash irreplaceable time with his family (including his wife and children), seriously impacted his hard-earned businesses, and constrained his ability to assist Ukraine in its time of war. Enough is enough," Webb said. "The U.S. government should dismiss this case and allow Firtash the freedom it has already cost him for the last 10 years."

On Tuesday afternoon, the United States attorney in Chicago declined to discuss the case, or comment on Webb's call for the indictment to be dismissed after a decade.

"We'll hold off commenting on the statement," said Joseph Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office.


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