Ukrainian mogul Firtash faces US charges over Indian bribery scheme
VIENNA, April 3 (RAPSI, Ingrid Burke) – Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash has been indicted in the US in connection with an alleged international racketeering scheme that included the bribery of Indian government officials for titanium mineral mining rights, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday.
A five-count indictment charges Firtash and five other foreign nationals for their involvement in the alleged conspiracy. The indictment was initially returned in June 2013, but was only unsealed on Wednesday.
Since 2006, the indictment alleges, the defendants conspired to pay out at least $18.5 million in bribes in exchange for mineral mining licenses in eastern India.
Firtash was arrested on March 12 in Vienna. According to the DOJ statement, he was released on March 21 after having posted bail in the amount of EUR 125 million, but has vowed to remain in Austria pending the outcome of extradition proceedings.
“Firtash allegedly met with Indian government officials… to discuss the project and its progress, and authorized payment of at least $18.5 million in bribes to both state and central government officials in India to secure the approval of licenses for the project,” according to the statement.
The businessman is further accused of having instructed his subordinates to create documents that would create the false appearance that the bribe money was being transferred for legitimate commercial purposes.
Firtash and his co-defendants each face one count each of racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, as well as two counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering. Five of them were charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
The five other defendants remain at large. Among the accused is Indian Member of Parliament Ramachandra Rao, who formerly served as a state government official in Andhra Pradesh, where the bribes were allegedly paid out for mining rights.
The others include Ukrainian national Suren Gevorgyan, Hungarian businessman Andras Knopp, Indian national and US resident Gajendra Lal, and Sri Lankan national Periyasamy Sunderalingam.