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Ukrainian Billionaire Charged In Bribery Scheme For Titanium Rights

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Dmitry Firtash (Credit: dmitryfirtash.com)

Dmitry Firtash (Credit: dmitryfirtash.com)

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CHICAGO (STMW) – A Ukrainian billionaire businessman with close ties to the recently ousted Ukrainian president has been indicted in Chicago’s federal court with bribing Indian government officials in a major international sting.

Dmitry Firtash, 48, was arrested in Austria last month at the request of U.S. authorities and freed after posting $174 million in bail, but the details of his alleged wrongdoing were only revealed Wednesday morning when his indictment was unsealed.

Along with five other foreign nationals also indicted in the scheme, Firtash allegedly conspired to pay at least $18.5 million in bribes to government officials in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to secure the rights to mine titanium minerals.

The mining project was allegedly expected to generate more than $500 million annually from the sale of titanium products, including sales to a company headquartered in Chicago.

Though the company is unnamed in the indictment, airplane manufacturer Boeing acknowledged in a statement Wednesday morning that it signed a memorandum of understanding with a Swiss business controlled by Firtash in 2006 to conduct a feasibility study on the potential for sourcing “titanium sponge.”

But Boeing “never pursued” the deal and has “never done business with Bothli other than the activities associated with the memorandum,” Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers said.

The charges, which were filed under seal in June, 2013, predate the recent political upheaval in Ukraine, which saw Firtash’s pal Viktor F. Yanukovych booted from the presidency.

Five other defendants remain at large, the feds say. They are Andras Knopp, 75, a Hungarian businessman; Suren Gevorgyan, 40, of Ukraine; Gajendra Lal, 50, an Indian national and permanent resident of the United States who formerly lived in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Periyasamy Sunderalingam, 60, of Sri Lanka; and K.V.P. Ramachandra, 65, a member of parliament in India who was an official of the state government of Andhra Pradesh and a close adviser to the now-deceased chief minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

“Criminal conspiracies that extend beyond our borders are not beyond our reach,” U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon said in a news release. “We will use all of the tools and resources available to us to ensure the integrity of global business transactions that involve U.S. commerce.”

U.S. laws allow federal prosecutors to go after any companies that do business in the U.S. and pay bribes overseas. But the indictment also alleges that funds from a racketeering scheme run by the defendants flowed in and out of the U.S.

According to the indictment, Firtash was the leader of the enterprise and oversaw, directed and guided certain of its illegal activities.

Under the terms of his bail last month, he promised to stay in Austria while extradition proceedings are carried out.

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