A court in Barcelona last week demanded the extradition of a Ukrainian oligarch with links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, senior members of the UK Conservative Party and Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.
Spanish prosecutors want to question Dmitry Firtash over allegations he headed up a money laundering network based in the Catalonia region. Judges have also ordered the detention of two Spanish businessmen, who they allege helped Firtash clean dirty money amassed through shady property deals and around €10 million run through shell companies incorporated in Cyprus and the Virgin Islands.
Spanish newspaper El Pais reports that the investigation into Firtash, who is currently fighting extradition to America where he is wanted for questioning over corruption allegations, stems from the detention of 11 men in July. The group, which included Stepan Chernovetskyi, the son of former Kyiv Mayor Leonid Chernovetskyi, were held on suspicion of money laundering. Firtash is accused of directing the group.
Police in Spain said they made a further five arrests in connection with the case last week, including three lawyers and two bank workers.
Firtash, a billionaire with close ties to deposed Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych, was arrested by police in Austria in March 2014 on an arrest warrant issued by the FBI, which accused him of making large payments to a major criminal organisation. An Austrian court barred his extradition to the US on the grounds the request was politically motivated, a decision that was overturned by the country’s constitutional court in August of this year.
The pro-Russian businessman has claimed that his only crime has been to fight US interests in Ukraine, arguing that his close links to the Kremlin and support for anti-western forces have made him the target of American prosecutors. Firtash has been living in exile in Austria since the Ukrainian uprising in 2014, during which his life was threatened by political dissidents.
Telling a Bloomberg reporter that he would like to return to his home country in an interview that was broadcast in March, Firtash said: “I am not happy with the fact that our country is being governed from abroad, that Americans are governing Ukraine. They may be very smart. I don’t have anything against the US, but there is a problem.”
It has been reported that Firtash may be worth as much as $5 billion, having made a large part of his fortune in Russia’s energy sector. Some analysts have suggested that Spain’s efforts to extradite him may be hindered by Donald Trump’s election victory in the US. Firtash has links to former Trump aide Paul Manafort, whose foreign business connections were being probed by the FBI at the beginning of the month.