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Former Russian Nuclear Official Fighting Extradition to the United States

  • Kathie Scarrah

Russia's former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeni Adamov has filed an appeal fighting extradition from Switzerland to the United States. Mr. Adamov was arrested by Swiss authorities in May, at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, on counts of fraud and money laundering.

Yevgeni Adamov, who served as Minister of Atomic Energy from 1998 to 2001, is accused of embezzling $9 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. It was money that was intended to improve security at Russian nuclear reactor facilities.

He is also charged with conspiracy to transfer stolen money, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., money laundering, and tax evasion.

Mr. Adamov denies the charges. "This is complete nonsense. Can you hear me? Compete nonsense."

Since his arrest earlier this year, Russia and the United States have fought to have the former Atomic Energy Minister extradited from Switzerland.

Douglas McNabb is a defense attorney with McNabb Associates, an international criminal defense firm with offices in the U.S. and Europe.

"The U.S. wants him because of the outstanding charges. Russia wants him apparently because this gentlemen may have information about the nuclear program that they want to make sure that the U.S. doesn't get hold of. "

If convicted in the U.S., the former government minister could be sentenced to 60 years in jail and face nearly $2 million in fines.

Officials in Moscow have stopped short of calling the U.S. accusations groundless.

But many Russian politicians, including lawmaker Alexei Mitrofanov, insist that the charges and the decision to send Mr. Adamov to the United States are politically motivated.

"I am sure it is a foreign policy maneuver and it is connected to American pressure over Iran. The Americans are trying to make Russia stop its nuclear cooperation with Iran and also, make Russia more cooperative on the issue of Syria as well," said Mr. Mitrofanov.

VOA made repeated attempts to get an official response from the U.S. government, but no one was willing to talk on camera about the issue.

Mr. McNabb offers a possible explanation. "I don't think that the U.S. government at this point wants it disclosed that there is a possibility that one of the options available to Mr. Adamov is that he may cooperate with the government."

Alexander Bulychev works at the Center for Policy Studies in Moscow. He says the Kremlin is worried about the political fallout the extradition might bring.

"It will be very unpleasant for Russia because it will show that Russia is a failing state, it is an unreliable regime and, of course, it might harm a lot of people in the Russian political circles, people who are occupying key posts".

Mr. McNabb disagrees. “My view of Mr. Adamov's case is that this isn't a political case; this is a law enforcement case. That he has been charged with criminal activity. Now, as a result of his being charged with criminal activity, he may very well disclose to the U.S. government information that the U.S. government could use politically."

It could be several months before Swiss officials rule on Mr. Adamov's extradition appeal.

If the former Atomic Energy Minister loses that appeal and is extradited to the U.S., observers in Moscow say it could have an effect on U.S.-Russian relations.

This report narrated by Kathie Scarrah

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