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Media: Belarus gave wanted Ukrainian oligarch diplomatic post to block extradition to US

by Martin Fornusek June 28, 2023 12:28 AM 1 min read
Dmytro Firtash poses for a photograph inside the Group DF offices following a Bloomberg Television interview in Vienna, Austria, on Monday, March 14, 2016. (Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Belarus assigned the Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash with a diplomatic post in Vienna to avoid his extradition to the U.S., Deutsche Welle (DW) reported on June 27.

Firtash, formerly a close associate to Ukraine's pro-Russian ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, received a position at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the outlet wrote. UNIDO is a UN body that assists mainly post-colonial countries with industrial and economic development.

U.S. prosecutors charged Firtash with racketeering and bribery in 2014 and he was briefly arrested in Austria before posting bail. The Ukrainian tycoon has so far avoided extradition from Austria's capital, where he resides.

The DW wrote that Belarus gave Firtash the diplomatic position already on June 29, 2021, but Austria's Justice Ministry did not recognize the accreditation, and thus neither Firtash's much-coveted diplomatic immunity.

However, on June 16, Firtash achieved a major victory when an Austrian court supported his appeal to start the 9-year-old case anew due to the businessman's new position with the UNIDO, DW reported.

This suggests that his proceedings can take many more years, again postponing the extradition, the outlet explained.

The Ukrainian businessman holds assets mainly in Ukraine's gas companies. On May 15, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) accused him of embezzling millions of hryvnias worth of state gas.

Firtash accumulated much of his wealth by buying Russian gas and selling it in his home country. He used his funds to back Yanukovych's successful 2010 presidential bid.

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