Ukrainian billionaire wanted by DOJ hires help in Washington

Dmytro Firtash, a controversial Ukrainian billionaire wanted by the United States, has turned to Washington power brokers for help with his legal woes.

Firtash is in the middle of an appeals process with Austria's Constitutional Court, where he is fighting extradition to the United States.

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He has signed a contract with Davis Goldberg & Galper — a firm formed by Democratic lawyer and lobbyist Lanny Davis — as he moves through the appeals process. 

 “I represent Mr. Firtash as a defense attorney, part of a team that believes that Mr. Firtash has been falsely accused,” Davis told The Hill. 

“Evidence that we are correct is that the United States was unable to extradite Mr. Firtash because an Austrian court found the case to be so weak and the political motivation for his arrest to be so clear that the minimal standards to extradite … were not met,” he continued. Davis also writes columns for The Hill.

Austrian officials arrested Firtash in 2014 after receiving an arrest warrant from U.S. law enforcement officials. The Justice Department alleges that he and five others allegedly conspired to issue $18.5 million in bribes to officials in India in order to receive mining permits in the country. 

Firtash has called the accusations "absurd and unfounded." Shortly after his arrest, he paid a $174 million bail, and his case has been tied up in the legal system ever since. 

A judge in Austria ruled the arrest was politically motivated and declined to extradite him to the United States.

Davis Goldberg & Galper will not be doing any lobbying on Firtash’s behalf, Davis said. The work is short term — only lasting through mid-January — with an option to renew at that time. Firtash is paying the firm $80,000 per month.

According to the contract documents, the firm may also offer services for "correcting the record in the media and elsewhere in the face of distortions and inaccuracies and advising on such media strategies for such purposes."

Firtash, a prominent figure in Ukraine’s gas industry, was a confidant of the country’s former pro-Russia prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in 2014.

U.S. officials want to extradite Firtash — who has wide-ranging business interests all over the world — to Chicago, where he would face charges of “racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, and … interstate travel in aid of racketeering.”

Firtash allegedly led the bribery scheme to gain rights to mine titanium in the Indian coastal state of Andhra Pradesh. The project would have reportedly brought in more than $500 million every year from the sale of titanium products, including to Chicago-based Boeing.

The indictment from the Justice Department seeks forfeiture of Firtash's interest in more than 150 companies registered in Austria, the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Seychelles, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It also seeks funds from 41 of his bank accounts in several of those countries.

In an unrelated matter, Spain last week put Firtash on its list of most-wanted fugitives.

The country's Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's office is accusing Firtash and several others of money laundering in the country, alleging he set up a network of offshore bank accounts.

Some of the money allegedly returned to Spain, according to Spanish daily El Pais, where it was invested in restaurants and real estate. Spain is also attempting to extradite him.