Europe

Austria rejects US bid to extradite Dmytro Firtash

Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash waits for the start of his extradition hearing at the main court in Vienna, Austria (30 April 2015) Image copyright AP
Image caption Dmytro Firtash argues that the US has fallen for disinformation about him supplied by his enemies in Ukraine

A court in Austria has turned down a US request for the extradition of the Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash.

It ruled the evidence presented by the US was not enough to justify his extradition on corruption charges.

Mr Firtash denies conspiring to pay millions of dollars in bribes to Indian mining officials through US banks.

The tycoon - one of Ukraine's richest men - was an ally of ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych. He was arrested but got bail in Vienna a year ago.

His gas and chemicals business thrived before Mr Yanukovych was overthrown and fled to Russia in February 2014.

'Smear campaign'

The billionaire business magnate told the court that accusations that he had plotted to bribe India government officials to win licenses to mine titanium were "absolutely untrue".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Firtash (R) was seen as a key backer of Viktor Yanukovych during his presidency

A US grand jury in 2013 indicted Mr Firtash, along with a member of India's parliament and four others. The US Justice Department alleges that at least $18.5m (£11m) was transferred through US financial institutions to be used as bribes.

He has consistently argued that he has been the victim of a political smear campaign.

"I have already expressed many times my confidence in the Austrian justice system. Today this confidence has proven to be justified," he said in a statement on Thursday issued by his lawyers.

Judge Christoph Bauer said Mr Firtash should remain on bail and stay in Austria until his order is legally binding.

Correspondents say that the legal manoeuvrings in his case are likely to continue for some time, because prosecutors have filed an appeal against the ruling.

A Vienna court last year set bail at €125m ($173m; £102m), a record for Austria.

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