CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC7 I-Team has learned there are new developments in a nine-year Chicago legal saga involving a Ukrainian oligarch, allegations of global bribery and now a war with Russia.
Even as war rages in his Ukraine homeland, U.S. prosecutors want the next stop for oligarch Dmitry Firtash to be Chicago. Authorities have been trying to get the mega-wealthy industrialist to Chicago for more than eight years to face charges of racketeering involving bribes of government officials in India. Now, a new decision from a European court could bring Firtash's extradition to Chicago one step closer.
I-TEAM INSIDER: Dmitry Firtash
Dmitry Firtash was arrested on a Chicago warrant in Vienna, Austria in 2014. The Ukrainian gas and titanium titan was among six foreign nationals charged with conspiring to pay more than $18 million dollars in bribes during a titanium deal that the I-Team has reported was linked to Chicago-based Boeing. The aerospace giant was not implicated in the case.
Firtash's extradition to Chicago-typically a routine matter between friendly nations-was caught in a sticky web of foreign court motions and lengthy deliberations-with Firtash unable to leave Austria. Now, after years of waiting, an Austrian court has denied Firtash's request for a new hearing.
"The decision means in theory that he should be now extraditable and is ready to be extradited. But we've seen that before. He took an appeal before he can take another appeal now from this decision, so we haven't reached the end of the road on this yet," said ABC7 legal analyst Gil Soffer.
Attorney Lanny Davis, who is on Firtash's legal team, says an appeal is being considered in Austria.
"Mr. Firtash and his legal team in the US still declare that Mr. Firtash is innocent and the indictment from over eight years ago lacks factual support concerning a 'scheme' by Mr. Firtash to bribe Indian officials concerning a mining transaction that never took place and has little or nothing to do with the United States. The indictment doesn't even allege that Mr. Firtash paid a bribe to anyone," Davis said.
ABC7 legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Gil Soffer tonight says the appeal will buy Firtash a little more time.
"This has now been delayed many years and may be delayed another several months. And when there's a shifting political climate, and when there's a request to go to Ukraine, as we've seen from him, it may just as a practical matter change the landscape. It shouldn't as a matter of law," said Soffer.
Since the war in Ukraine began, Firtash has repeatedly denounced Russian invaders and has disputed reports that he is has ties to Vladimir Putin or links to Russian organized crime-calling them lies and smears. Firtash says he's asked American officials for permission to leave Austria and return to Ukraine, where he says that his industrial plants have all been transformed into defense production-including anti-tank barriers. The US attorney's office in Chicago told the I-Team on Tuesday that it has with no comment on the federal case.