US files formal extradition request for custody of former Russian atomic energy minister

Publish date: June 30, 2005

Written by: Charles Digges

The United States has filed a formal extradition request to the Swiss government to try former Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov and his business partner for allegedly defrauding the US government for more than $9m in US Department of Energy nuclear aid funding to Russia in a US court.

Adamov, who served as Russian Minster of Atomic Energy from 1998 until 2001, was arrested in Bern on a US warrant issued by the Pennsylvania Western Federal District Court on May 2nd. He was in Bern at the time to help his daughter, whose several bank accounts had been frozen.

The US had until June 30th to file formal extradition requests following its extradition request, and had sent a 20-count US federal indictment of Adamov to Swiss authorities two weeks earlier. Swiss officials received the US extradition papers on June 25th, a spokesman for the Swiss Justice Ministry told Bellona Web Wednesday.

Russia, however, filed an extradition request on May 17th, in a possible effort to countermand Adamov—who is privy to man Russia’s nuclear secrets—from falling into US hands. Some Russian parliamentarians, or Duma members, have even gone so far as to suggest Adamov be assassinated lest he fall into US hands. Russia has also filed an arrest warrant for Adamov with the Swiss courts, giving the case a distinctly political charge.

What officials in Switzerland must weigh are the merits of the US and Russian extradition requests and whether they are based on criminal rather than political motivations, said the Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman..

As Russia filed its extradition request earlier, that could lend some weight to the Russian case, said the Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman. But the spokesman, who has read the indictment, said that the US case appears to be criminal rather than political in nature, which would possibly sway the Swiss Supreme Court, who will decide Adamov’s final destination.

Political or criminal motives?
In mid June, a Swiss court ruled that Adamov should be released from detention because of his immunity as a former governmental minister. That decision was overturned within hours when the Swiss Justice Ministry was granted an appeal. Adamov is therefor still behind bars.

A spokesman for the US Department of Justice said Wednesday that the US “has no interest in whatsoever secrets Adamov may have in his head—US and Russian efforts in nuclear aid have revealed to Cooperative Threat Reduction officials most of what they need to know, so the Russian charge that Washington would extort information from Adamov is absurd.”

He added that “this is purely related to what we believe are illegal activities Adamov was financing with US cooperative threat reduction funding geared toward Russia that he used for his own personal financial gain.”

Partners in crime?
Adamov and his business partner, Russian born US national Mark Kaushansky, stand charged in the extradition request of conspiring to transfer stolen money and converting government funds into personal assets in the 20-count indictment that was returned last month by a Pittsburg Federal Grand Jury. Kaushansky also faces tax evasion charges.

Adamov meanwhile sits in a Swiss prison as officials there sort through the indictment that alleges he and a partner diverted the US aid cash—including initial funding from the Argonne National Laboratory in the US state of Illinois—into personal bank accounts in the United States, Monaco, and France.

The alleged cash diversions, which included payments to Adamov by Argonne, made in March 2002, were one of the first sparks igniting the current investigation. The US Department of Energy launched an investigation into the accounts and businesses established by Adamov and Kaushansky in the United States.


Adamov’s American attorney, Lanny Breuer, said from Washington in a telephone interview that his client would like to come to the US—but not in custody—to face the charges.

"We admit monies went into his account," Breuer said. "However, at the same time he was expending monies so that all the scientists were getting paid and all the projects were completed."

Breuer said the Russian banking system was riddled with abuses, and that Adamov and Kaushansky, a Soviet-trained nuclear engineer who now lives outside Pittsburgh, sought to actually prevent the theft of US funds.

Kaushansky, who appeared in federal court in Pittsburgh on May 17 and was released on a $100,000 bond, told US news outlets in 2002 that the accounts in question were created to help Russian scientists avoid facing steep taxes by paying them directly. His attorney did not return several phone calls Wednesday.

The meat of the US Federal indictment
Adamov and Kaushansky are accused in the indictment of using "multiple bank accounts and companies to conceal the nature of their activities." If convicted, Adamov faces a maximum total sentence of 60 years in prison, a $1.75 million fine or both. Kaushansky faces 180 years in prison, a $5 million fine or both.

During the 1990s in the post-Soviet era, Adamov was one of Russia’s most powerful scientists, commanding a crumbling civilian nuclear enterprise but also the Western aid that was intended to fix it.

Adamov also presided over a legislative package that eventually allowed the import of radioactive waste for storage and reprocessing to Russia for profit put before the Russian Parliament in 2001—a dubious concept for a country that can barely handle its own nuclear waste.

Despite opposition by some 90 percent of the Russian population to the scheme, it sailed through the State Duma with little opposition. Several Duma members later interviewed by Bellona and The Moscow Times admitted to receiving bribes and other favours for their positive votes. Adamov was at the same time under Russian federal investigation for corruption

History of a nuclear scientist
During most of the 90s, Adamov was head of NIKIET, a Russian nuclear research institute. In 1990 Adamov also was named general director of Energopool, a forum for Soviet and Western scientists to discuss energy strategies, the US Federal indictment said.

NIKIET named Energopool as the recipient agency for US nuclear safety financial assistance, read the indictment. In 1993, the indictment alleges, Adamov and Kaushansky formed a private Pennsylvania company with a similar name, Energo pool Inc., and opened a Pittsburgh bank account for their new firm. The company and bank account later were moved to Delaware.

They were among the companies and accounts that Adamov and Kaushansky created to receive US aid payments, the US indictment alleged.

The two also established a company in the Bahamas, Aglosky International Ltd., and bank accounts in Monaco and France to receive US funds, according to the indictment.

Aid payment receipts obtained by the Chicago Tribune in 2002 showed the transfer of government funds to the private bank accounts. About $4.6 million was moved from Energo pool into the personal accounts of Adamov and his wife, the indictment said.

A second company, Omeka Ltd., also was formed in Pennsylvania.

In 2002, after his ouster by President Vladimir Putin, Adamov told The Moscow Times that he had "no relationship" to the U.S. companies and, "as far as I know, the Russian nuclear ministry never received any means from these firms or through them from nuclear laboratories."