By MICHAEL TARM
2014-04-03 03:01 AM
CHICAGO (AP) -- One of Ukraine's most influential oligarchs and a major player in the sale of Russian natural gas to Ukraine allegedly headed an international conspiracy involving at least $18 million in bribes to secure rights to mine titanium in India, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday by federal prosecutors.
Dmytro Firtash, 48, was arrested last month in Vienna on an American warrant, then later released on a more than $172 million in bail on assurances he wouldn't leave Austria. The five-count indictment also names five others, including a member of India's parliament.
After Firtash's arrest in Vienna on March 12, U.S. authorities said they were seeking his extradition to Chicago. They also insisted the action against the businessman had nothing to do with rising tensions in Ukraine. Russia later annexed Ukraine's Crimea region.
Firtash's company, Group DF, said after his arrest that it appeared to be a mistake that "will be resolved in the nearest future."
The businessman was a supporter of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia, and a significant figure in the sale of billions of dollars in Russian natural gas to Ukraine through RosUkrEnergo, a trading company he co-owns with Russian state gas company Gazprom.
The indictment describes Firtash as the leader of a conspiracy in a mining project set to generate more than $500 million annually from the sale of titanium products, including to an unidentified company based in Chicago. That company is only referred to in the indictment as "Company A."
Firtash and the other defendants face multiple charges, including racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. A conviction on just one count of racketeering conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, as well as hefty fines.
All other defendants are still at large, U.S. prosecutors in Chicago said.
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