Former nuke minister Adamov wants trial in Russia, but US has other plans

Publish date: August 31, 2005

Written by: Charles Digges

Former Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Yevgeny Adamov, who has been siting in a Swiss jail since May 2nd on extradition allegations from both Washington and Moscow that he laundered $9m in US nuclear aid funds through American front firms, has agreed to be prosecuted in a Russian court, news agencies reported Tuesday.

Both countries have filed extradition requests. The United States, however, refuses to withdraw its extradition request, according both to representatives of the US Embassy in Moscow Wednesday and to a statement handed down by the Western Pennsylvania District’s US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, which was obtained by Bellona Web Tuesday.

Adamov agreed earlier this week to be extradited to Russia and tried on the same charges Washington is levying against him. According to sources in the Western Pennsylvania District’s US Attorney’s office, however, Buchanan refused to withdraw the request to the Swiss government to extradite Adamov to the US, despite the pleas from Russian officialdom that trying Adamov in Russia would be “easier,” according to his attorneys.

"He has declared himself willing to be prosecuted by Russian officials for the crimes that the United States accuses him of," said Folco Galli, spokesman for the Federal Justice Office in Switzerland in an interview with Bellona Web Wednesday.

Galli added that based on Adamov’s request, that the Swiss justice office decided last week to approve Adamov’s extradition to Russia and asked US officials whether they would accept that decision. But with Buchanan’s statement, that approval was dashed and Adamov remains in legal limbo.


Lanny Bruer, Adamov’s US-side attorney, could not be reached for comment.

Tug-of-war over Adamov
Adamov, who served as Minister of Atomic Energy from 1998 t0 2001 was arrested in Bern, Switzerland on May 2nd, during a visit to his daughter to help her clear up issues surrounding the freezing of her local bank accounts. He was detained on the request of the United States and remains in jail in Bern.

Initially, the Russian Ministry of Foreign affairs and the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy—now known as Rosatom—initialy downplayed the incident and cited that the affair dealt with Adamov’s business dealings prior to his tenure as atomic energy minister.

But within days, Moscow did an about-face and filed extradition papers on May 17th —even earlier than the United States—insisting that he be tried on Russian soil for crimes allegedly committed there. Moscow charges that Adamov embezzled the $9m in aid funding from the US between 1998 and 2001, when he was in office.

The United States files its own extradition request—a weighty tome charging Adamov on some 20 counts of money laundering and fraud—on July 14, and charges that Adamov had been bilking American nuclear aid funding to the tune of $9m beginning in 1993.

The money, reads the indictment handed down by a Pennsylvania grand jury, accuses Adamov of laundering some $9m in Co-operative Threat Reduction (CTR) funding in his US holdings in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Under international law, Washington had until June 30 to file the request

Is US seeking Russian nuke secrets?
Many within the Russian establishment speculated that the United States wanted to squeeze Adamov for Moscow’s nuclear secrets—a charge denied by the United States.

His Russian-born US citizen business partner, Mark Kaushansky, also stands charged in the United States of aiding the alleged financial manipulations. Adamov has defended himself by saying that diversion of US funding for nuclear remediation into private accounts was routine practice, given the unreliability and inflationary fluctuations of Russian banks.

What Swiss justice faces
It will now be up to the Swiss courts to weigh the validity of the intrigue-filled extradition requests from both nations.

According to Swiss Federal Justice Office spokesman Galli, if the dispute between the United States and Russia continues, Switzerland will have to decide where to extradite Adamov based on the seriousness and location of the alleged crimes, the dates of the extradition requests and the nationality of the person involved.

The former minister’s case has already been heard by the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland, which ruled that he must stay behind bars pending a decision on his extradition.

If convicted in the United States, Adamov faces up to 60 years in prison and a $1.75m fine.