February 21, 2017
VIENNA (AP) — An Austrian court on Tuesday approved a U.S. extradition request for a Ukrainian oligarch suspected of paying millions of dollars in bribes to Indian officials. The court decision overturns a lower court ruling nearly two years ago against extraditing Dymitro Firtash. The judge then said that the U.S. move was at least partially politically motivated through links to political events in Ukraine, and not supported by sufficient evidence.
Extradition, however, is still not a certainty. Leo Levnaic-Iwanski, who headed the judges’ panel of the Upper State Court, said the final decision will be made by Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandstetter.
Firtash was indicted in Chicago by a U.S. grand jury in 2012 for allegedly paying off officials through U.S. banks in a failed attempt to secure titanium mining rights in India. Arrested a year later in Vienna, Firtash posted bail of 125 million euros (more than $130 million) shortly afterward, leaving him free but unable to leave Austria.
One of Ukraine’s most influential businessmen, Firtash, 51, is well connected both in Moscow and with Ukrainian politicians opposed to the Kremlin. He earned millions of dollars in the natural gas trading sector under deposed pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.