4974 miles from Moscow, the largest city in the American Midwest, Chicago hardly seems like the most natural site of a battleground in the investigation into Russian election interference. However, on Monday, September 11th, a court battle between Chicago prosecutors and a Ukrainian oligarch became yet the latest development in the long and protracted inspection of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election.
With only local media attention being paid to the story, a few influential figures, in particular, Renato Mariotti, a partner at Thompson Coburn LLP and former federal prosecutor, sought to shine a spotlight on the potentially significant and under covered story.
This Chicago federal prosecution of Manafort associate and Russian oligarch Dimitry Firtash for racketeering deserves more attention. https://t.co/J5eymXEXju— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) September 8, 2017
The Chicago case involves Dimitry Firtash, a Ukrainian industrialist who has been fighting extradition efforts being sought by U.S. prosecutors related to a bribery charge. Firtash, “described by federal authorities as a top-tier Russian mob associate,” will not be personally in attendance in the Chicago courtroom as he is in Vienna, free on a $174 million bond as he waits to find out the results of the extradition efforts. Firtash’s lawyer, Dan Webb, a former U.S. attorney, is pushing for a dismissal of the charges, arguing that Firtash himself has never even been to Chicago and the U.S. does not have a legitimate interest in his prosecution.
Firtash has been charged with bribing Indian officials for a lucrative mining deal and then plotting to sell the titanium to Chicago-based Boeing, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
While normally, this run-of-the-mill case of international bribery would be of little domestic political consequence, Firtash has interesting ties to President Trump’s associates, a particularly sore subject in the context of the on-going investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.
Firtash is a business associate of former Trump campaign manager and Trump Tower resident, Paul Manafort. Nearly a decade ago, Firtash “invested $25 million in a real-estate venture started by Manafort” that subsequently attracted the attention of investigators.
Seeking to extinguish growing intrigue, Dan Webb, Firtash’s attorney, told Bloomberg that his client “is not in any way cooperating with the special counsel office on Paul Manafort or any other issue.” However, questions remain whether there will be any impact from the Chicago-based case on the Russia investigation.
• Dimitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch, has been charged by the U.S. with bribery in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The U.S. is seeking his extradition from Vienna in connection with the case.
• Firtash has business related ties to former Trump Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort, with whom he invested $25 million in a real-estate venture with nearly a decade ago.
• Will the court rule that Firtash’s extradition is legal and valid? Will Vienna honor the resulting conclusion?
• If Firtash is extradited will there be any attempt to “flip” him as a witness, potentially offering him leniency in exchange for testimony against Manfort in order to gain leverage?
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