Swiss court rules Adamov should be released from detention

Publish date: June 16, 2005

Written by: Charles Digges

A Swiss court ruled that former Russian atomic energy minister, Yevgeny Adamov, should be released from detention in Bern, Switzerland, where he was picked up on a US warrant for allegedly laundering $9m in US nuclear aid money through a number of businesses he owns in the United State, news agencies reported.

At the moment, however, he still remains in custody pending an appeal from the Swiss Justice Ministry, a spokesman there told the Associated Press.

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court upheld an appeal from Adamov late last week, but the Justice Ministry immediately appealed the decision to the country’s supreme court. Adamov will remain in custody until the court rules on that appeal, said Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli.

"The federal supreme court hasn’t responded yet, but at the moment he’s still in detention," Galli said.

Court cites ‘Immunity’ for Adamov
Lawyers for Adamov, who was originally arrested May 2nd in Switzerland on a US warrant issued by the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania where Adamov’s Omeka company is register, appealed May 17 against his detention on the basis that Switzerland violated his immunity as a former minister. Adamov also has holdings in the US state of Delaware.

If extradited to the United States and found guilty, Adamov faces up to 60 years in prison and a fine of $1.75 m. The US indictment also includes Adamov’s business partner, Russia-born US national Mark Kaushansky.

Lanny Breuer, Adamov’s American attorney, told a news conference in Washington that the Swiss court found that Adamov’s arrest was illegal and violates Swiss and international law.

"This decision shows that without question the Swiss courts are independent and have shown, in our view, great wisdom," Breuer said, according to the Associated Press. "The rule of law in Switzerland remains strong despite, in our view, the overreaching of the United States government and the United States Department of Justice."

In Washington, Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra declined to comment on the ruling or its future implications. He said the department does not "comment on extradition on specific cases."

He referred questions to the US Attorney’s office in Pittsburgh, which didn’t return messages left by Bellona Web and other news agenicies.

At the United States’ request, Adamov was arrested May 2 during a visit to his daughter in the Swiss capital Bern to help her untangle a number of her bank accounts that had been frozen.

Adamov has since been indicted by a US federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on conspiracy to transfer stolen money and securities, conspiracy to defraud the United States, money laundering and tax evasion.

The United States says he diverted up to $9 million from US Energy Department (DOE(funds intended to improve Russian nuclear security.

Russia vs. United States over Adamov extradition
But Adamov’s detention has set off a legal firestorm between Moscow and Washington over which country the foreign ministry should be extradited to. The United States has not yet filed an extradition appeal for Adamov, though it has until June 30 to do so.

The country has, however, prepared an indictment, reviewed by Bellona Web, reading several dozen pages detailing Adamov’s private bank transactions through his US accounts and indicting him with conspiracy to transfer stolen money and securities, conspiracy to defraud the United States, money laundering and tax evasion.

Russia initially appeared to distance noting he was facing charges in connection with his commercial activities in the early 1990s prior to his appointment as Russian atomic energy minister. But Moscow officials did a quick turnabout when it apparently occurred to them that Adamov’s possible extradition to the US could be a ploy to obtain Russian nuclear secrets that the former minister was privy to during his tenure between 1998 and 2001. A Moscow court then filed an extradition petition with the Swiss government.

Switzerland has extradition treaties with both the United States and Russia, and it has been suggested that Russia’s earlier filing of its extradition papers will give it primacy when Swiss courts rule on Adamov’s destination.