News / Europe

    Ukrainian Gas Oligarch Firtash Arrested in Vienna on FBI Warrant

    Dmytro Firtash, one of Ukraine's richest men, (R) and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich take part in an opening ceremony of a new complex for the production of sulfuric acid in Crimea region, April 27, 2012.
    Dmytro Firtash, one of Ukraine's richest men, (R) and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich take part in an opening ceremony of a new complex for the production of sulfuric acid in Crimea region, April 27, 2012.
    Reuters
    Industrialist Dmytro Firtash, one of Ukraine's most influential oligarchs with close links to Russia through his gas interests, has been arrested in Austria at the request of the United States.
        
    Austria's Federal Crime Agency said on Thursday that Firtash was held on Wednesday on suspicion of violating laws on bribery and forming a criminal organization in the course of foreign business deals.
        
    Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said, "Our embassy in Austria has confirmed that Dmytro Firtash has been detained at the request of the [U.S.] Federal Bureau of Investigation. He is now being held in a detention center."
        
    The detention of Firtash, 48, whose business concerns in gas trading and chemicals thrived under ousted President Viktor Yanukovich, is the highest profile arrest in the wake of  political turmoil which installed new pro-Western authorities in power in Kyiv in February.
        
    Firtash's company Group DF said the FBI case appeared related to an investment project in 2006 which another group source said was in India.
        
    The statement from Group DF said, "We know that the actions of the law enforcement organs of Austria in relation to Dmytro Firtash are not linked with the situation in Ukraine, not with the activity of the Group in Europe and America but relate to an investment project in 2006.
        
    "We are sure that the present incident is a misunderstanding and will be resolved very soon."
        
    A spokesman for Austria's Federal Crime Agency said the order to take him into custody came this month.
        
    Forbes Ukraine magazine last year put Firtash in 14th place on its Ukrainian rich list, setting his fortune at $673 million.
        
    Though he is nowhere near as wealthy as the country's top oligarchs, Firtash's close links to Russia, and possibly to the Kremlin via the energy sector, make him one of the most influential figures in Ukraine.
        
    Firtash is not named on an initial European Union list of Ukrainians suspected of misusing state funds and violating human rights and whose assets are to be frozen as a result of the crisis over the Russian incursion into Ukraine's Crimea.
        
    He is one of several Ukrainian oligarchs who have called for Ukraine's territorial integrity to be maintained in the face of Russia's military incursion into Crimea.
        
    U.S. prosecutors have not announced any charges against Firtash, and a database of criminal cases did not show any on Thursday. The United States has had an extradition treaty with Austria since 2000, according to the U.S. State Department.

    'Strong message'
       
    Ukraine's new prosecutor-general Oleh Makhnitsky told Reuters "We are not the initiators of this action".
        
    The Austrian Federal Crime Agency said in its statement, "Based on years of investigations by the U.S. FBI and an arrest warrant issued by a U.S. federal district court, Vienna prosecutors issued a national order to detain the businessman."
        
    He was taken into custody without incident in Vienna on Wednesday evening, it said, and was transferred to a justice facility in Vienna.
        
    However, some analysts saw a link between Firtash's detention and U.S. and Western governments' moves to bring pressure to bear on Moscow over Crimea.
        
    "It [Firtash's arrest] sends a strong message to Russia that the west is willing to go down the financial sanctions route unless it backtracks over Crimea and over broader policy towards Ukraine," said Timothy Ash of Standard Bank.
        
    Firtash is founder and chairman of Group DF, whose website describes it as a diversified international group of companies operating across Europe and Asia in fields including fertilizer, titanium, gas distribution and banking. His plants and companies are present in Ukraine, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, Tajikistan, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria and Estonia.
        
    But a substantial part of Firtash's fortune came from a 45 percent stake he held in RosUkrEnergo, a subsidiary of Russia's Gazprom which acted as an intermediary between the Russian supplier and Ukraine's state-run Naftogaz until former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko shut RosUkrEnergo out of the market in 2009.
        
    He kept close links with Russia when Yanukovich came to power in 2010. His Ostchem Holding, grouping chemical firms in east and central Europe, has enjoyed gas discounts from Gazprom which promised him 8 billion cubic meters annually at a price last year of $260 per thousand cubic meters, according to the Ukrainian media, less than the $400 per thousand cubic meters paid by Naftogaz.
        
    Before Yanukovich's dramatic and swift fall from power, Firtash's contacts made him even more powerful than Ukraine's richest man, steel and chemicals billionaire Rinat Akhmetov.
        
    A year ago, in what was seen then as a move that would help Yanukovich secure re-elelection in 2015, Firtash bought a leading TV station Inter for a reported $2.5 billion.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora