Adamov lawyer says his client clear of US charges – US judge and attorneys beg to differ

Former Russian minister of atomic energy, Yevgeny Adamov.
Bellona Archive

Publish date: June 29, 2007

Written by: Charles Digges

NEW YORK – Mark Kaushansky, a Ukrainian born nuclear engineer and co-defendant Yevgeny Adamov, former Russian Minister of Atomic Energy, was sentenced Thursday to 15 month in prison and fined $20,000 for fraud and tax evasion in a Pittsburg court, US federal prosecutors told Bellona Web.

Adamov, 68, who was extradited from Switzerland – where he was arrested in 2005 on a US warrant – to Russia still faces charges in the United States for allegedly misappropriating $9m in United States Department of Energy (DOE) funding that had been earmarked for safety upgrades to nuclear reactors in Russia in the early 1990’s.

Adamov was appointed to his post as Atomic Minister by former Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1998 and was later fired by President Vladimir Putin in 2001.

The aid money acquired by Adamov was instead deposited in the account of Omeka, a Pennsylvania-based nuclear consulting firm run by Adamov and Kaushansky, as well as in a number of US bank accounts held by the two men.

Adamov’s defense attorney, Genry Reznik, argues that the former Atomic Minister deposited the aid money in the account of his personal business to protect it from the rampant currency rollercoasters of the post-Soviet economy.

Adamov’s lawyer contradicts US Attorney’s office

Reznik told Russian media Thursday that Kaushanky’s conviction implied the full acquittal of Adamov on fraud and tax evasion charges brought against him by the US government–a direct contradiction of the statement issued by the Pennsylvania US attorney’s office, which told Bellona Web in a telephone interview Friday that Adamov is “still very much on the hook” in the United States case.

US District Judge Maurice Cohill, who presided over the case, confirmed this to Bellona Web by telephone on Friday, but added that "Dr. Adamov will probably never be in the United States to have the charges against him resolved."

Reznik told RIA Novosti Russian newswire, however, that Thursday’s judgment against Kaushansky absolved Adamov.

"Prosecutors are all alike. I have studied the court decision carefully and it unequivocally implies that Adamov was acquitted."

Reznik said the Pittsburgh court found that there had been no conspiracy between Adamov and Kaushansky, a Russian born nuclear engineer who has Pennsylvania residency.

Kaushansky, 56, was not convicted of involvement in the misappropriation of funds allocated by Washington as part of international financing for the upgrade of Soviet-era nuclear power plants, RIA Novosti reported.

The Russian business daily Kommersant cited Friday a source in the Pittsburgh court as saying the ruling did not mention Adamov directly, but implied that there was no conspiracy to misappropriate the funds.

US judge says Kaushansky and Adamov did conspire

But Judge Cohill’s recap of events in the Pittsburgh courtroom contradict Reznik. According to Cohill, he sentenced Kaushansky to prison time, the $20,000 fine and an order to pay back taxes “for helping alleged co-conspirator Yevgeny Adamov skim money for several years.”

Kaushansky himself pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy and tax evasion charges. He originally was indicted on 20 counts.

Prosecutors said Kaushansky teamed up with Adamov to divert the DOE aid money through banks in Delaware and Monaco, and PNC and Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh.

At least $9 million went through US companies, including Omeka, which the defendants created, and Kaushansky was responsible for $5.5 million in back taxes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Cohill ruled Kaushansky who worked as a Westinghouse nuclear engineer, owed only $63,000 in taxes, which reduced his potential sentence.

Former US Attorney Fred Thieman, who represented Kaushansky, echoed Reznik’s claims in a telephone interview Friday and said Kaushansky and Adamov diverted the money to keep it safe from the volatile Russian economy and used it to pay Russian nuclear scientists.

"I was given an opportunity to help hundreds of Russian scientists and their families in dire need," Kaushansky said yesterday, according to a transcript of the proceedings viewed by Bellona Web.

"I think I did a lot of good, but in the process I made some mistakes."

Russian charges against Adamov still stand
Adamov, who was taken from Switzerland to Russia after a political tug-of-war with the United States, remains in Russia, free on an agreement that he will not leave the country. Russia insisted that extraditing Adamov to America would surely mean he would be pumped for Russian nuclear secrets by US interrogators.

Adamov is facing charges of abusing his authority and fraud in Russia. His trial began in January, but his trial was later indefinitely postponed. He denies all charges against him.