VIENNA, Austria – Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash was arrested in the Vienna Court of Appeal on Feb. 21 after a judge ruled that the billionaire businessman could be extradited to the United States to face bribery charges.

Firtash is wanted by Spanish prosecutors for money laundering and in the U.S. for bribing Indian officials. An Austrian judge had ruled that the U.S. case was politically motivated in April, 2015

As the judge of the Vienna Court of Appeal made his final comments after satisfying an appeal by U.S. prosecutors on Tuesday, Firtash, sitting at the defendant’s table, was visibly shocked. The Austrian Ministry of Justice will make a final decision on the U.S. extradition of the Ukrainian oligarch, who had close ties to ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The oligarch left the courtroom and told reporters that the cases were “one after the other.” He took the lift down to the first floor where he was greeted by another crowd of journalists. Within a matter of seconds Austrian police officers and plain-clothed officials rushed through the crowd and surrounded the oligarch. Firtash can be seen going back into the elevator. After five or so minutes the plain-clothed police officers led him away into the backrooms of the courthouse.


The arrest in relation to a Spanish money laundering case has left Firtash in a very uncertain situation. It is more difficult for Firtash to claim the Spanish case is politically motivated. The Austrian judge on Feb. 21 told the courtroom that the Austrian authorities did not consider the Spanish case to be related to the U.S. case and that it is not politically motivated.

The exiled Ukrainian oligarch could be tried in Spain then be extradited to the United States.

Firtash arrived confident early Feb. 21. More than 50 people had crowded into the small 36-seat hall earlier on the morning of Feb. 21, with lawyers, prosecutors,  journalists, and supporters waiting for the fugitive Ukrainian oligarch and gas mogul to arrive in the courtroom.


Denis Horbunenko, the former head of Rodovid Bank; Firtash’s Group DF Holding CEO Boris Krasnyansky, Inter Media Group CEO Hanna Bezlyudna and wife Lada Firtash came to the court to support the oligarch.

The court proceedings started at 9 a.m. when Firtash, wanted for corruption allegations by U.S., came in and sat, looking calm.

The Austrian court heard an appeal of U.S. prosecutors, filed in April 2015, after Austrian prosecutors representing the U.S.,failed to provide enough evidence to approve a U.S. extradition for the Ukrainian chemicals, media and energy trade billionaire. An Austrian judge in 2015 said that he believed the case was politically motivated when he rejected the request.

Firtash rose to fame and fortune as a co-owner of RosUkrEnergo, also owned by Russia’s Gazprom, by selling Russian gas to the Ukrainian government.

The U.S. FBI is seeking Firtash’s extradition so he can stand trial in Chicago on bribery charges. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2012 for allegedly trying to secure titanium mining rights in India through payments of millions of dollars through US banks. He was arrested in 2013 but freed on $177 million bail on the condition he must stay in Austria.



Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash comes in the courtroom of the Court of Appeal in Vienna, Austria on Feb.21. (photo by Isobel Koshiw)

The United States failed to present witnesses at the previous extradition hearing in April 2015. U.S. officials told the Kyiv Post that they were reluctant to have their witnesses questioned by Austrian prosecutors, as they believed it would weaken any case heard in the United States. The U.S also failed to deliver to the Austrian court transcripts of questioning.

The prosecutor’s speech lasted only for five minutes. The defense lawyer, in contrast, spoke for around three hours.

The U.S. accused Firtash of giving bribes worth a total of $18.5 million to receive a titanium extraction permit in India. He faces up to 50 years in prison and the seizure of all his assets.

After the court declined a U.S demand in 2015, the Austrian authorities returned to Firtash his passport and other documents.

But in November, Spanish anti-corruption prosecutors office filed an arrest warrant and a request to extradite the Ukrainian oligarch to Spain to be investigated in the case of laundering more than 10 million euro accusations. Six lawyers were representing Firtash against one Austrian prosecutor representing U.S interests in court.

At noon Firtash declined to give a final statement in his defense in court,  saying he would go with what his lawyers say.


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