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

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff and Christine Tressel WLS logo
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Ukrainian oligarch wanted in Chicago now facing charges in homeland
Dmitry Firtash, wanted for bribery conspiracy in Chicago, is now also wanted for embezzlement and fraud surrounding Ukraine's natural gas system.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Ukrainian industrialist and oligarch Dmitry Firtash is now in deeper legal hot water than just a Chicago indictment for bribery conspiracy.

Firtash is a mega-wealthy industrialist who is believed to be holed up in Austria to avoid extradition to Chicago. Now, he is also wanted in his homeland of Ukraine in a "large scale scheme of embezzling" $485 million. Firtash and his top managers are said to have siphoned off money straight from the public customers of Ukraine's natural gas distribution system.

SEE ALSO | Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition to Chicago angling for misdemeanor deal

Along with the ABC7 I-Team, former Chicago Federal Prosecutor and Chief ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer has been following the oligarch's ongoing legal troubles for years.

"They look to be really substantial embezzlement, fraud charges with a lot of money at stake and a very sensitive case, so yeah, he's facing some pretty serious charges," said Soffer.

In Chicago, the 58-year old Firtash faces complicated bribery conspiracy and racketeering charges from a titanium deal that alleges bribes to top government officials in India. With the latest charges by Ukraine against Firtash, he is considered a fugitive from justice in his homeland.

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Ukrainian justice officials posted what appears to be undercover recordings of Firtash that allegedly support charges he and his executive team embezzled 70% of the funds, which were intended for the purchase of natural gas for ordinary citizens who were simply trying to pay their utility bills.

In an exclusive interview with the I-Team almost one year ago, Firtash denied committing any crimes.

"I do not consider myself guilty," Firtash said.

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Soffer said the oligarch has significant new legal difficulties, at least as serious as what he's facing in Chicago.

"Nearly half-a-billion dollars is one of the largest embezzlement cases one will ever see in any country anywhere," he said.

Firtash has spent his own fortune on legal representation and public relations efforts to fight extradition to Chicago, but he remains virtually exiled in his Vienna estate.

If he leaves, he risks fugitive arrest by the FBI. There's no comment yet from his legal team in Chicago or the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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