In a case filed against a foreign national who had never set foot in Chicago (or the United States for that matter), a Ukrainian industrialist is facing charges related to a conspiracy to bribe an Indian official. Unfortunately, the bribe never happened and the deal fell apart. However, that has not stopped the U.S. from attempting to extradite the man to the U.S. to face charges related to a failed bribe.
Dmitry Firtash is a well-known and well-connected Ukrainian natural gas magnate. The question perplexing many is why a Ukrainian citizen who has never been to the United States ended up getting charged in a failed attempt to bribe an Indian official. Attorneys for Firtash claim that there is no case to be made since the bribe never happened, and even if it did, the U.S. lacks personal jurisdiction over the case.
What is going on?
First, let’s get to the facts of the case. Firtash is accused of attempting to bribe an Indian official related to a titanium deal that would have sent titanium to Boeing here in Chicago. Boeing has not been named in the indictment. His attorneys contend that the charges are a paper-thin pretense to get the Russian oligarch into the United States. Four members of Congress have petitioned the government to make headway with the extradition. While Firtash is believed to have secured his wealth using corruption and control of 70% of the natural gas industry, it is unclear that he has broken any law that the U.S. can prosecute.
Firtash is currently being held in Austria. The U.S. has petitioned Austria to charge Firtash here in the United States.
Analyzing the charges
Firtash is charged with conspiracy to commit bribery. Bribery is a federal crime punishable by up to 15 years in federal prison. However, the text of the law defines a “public official” purely in terms of American politics. To cite the law:
(1)the term “public official” means Member of Congress, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, either before or after such official has qualified, or an officer or employee or person acting for or on behalf of the United States, or any department, agency or branch of Government thereof, including the District of Columbia, in any official function, under or by authority of any such department, agency, or branch of Government, or a juror;
Essentially, the law was never crafted in such a manner to exclude private citizens from bribing foreign officials. Its use here to charge a foreign national with a domestic crime involving a third party not of the United States is likely a unique prosecution. Chances are good that if the U.S. was capable of pinning a far-worse allegation on the Ukrainian, they would have done so by now. But unfortunately, conspiracy to commit bribery was the best they could do.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with the crime of bribery in a political move by the U.S. government, but did not actually commit a crime, you will still likely need a lawyer. Call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 to set up an appointment and discuss your predicament in greater detail.