Friday, June 03, 2005

Adamov and the Kremlins Use of the Legal System

The Eurasia Daily Monitor in Washington features the following interesting article about former Russian Nuclear Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov. Note the last sentence of the article!

Just as the Khodorkovsky process was reaching its finale, a new spectacle was gearing up in Bern, Switzerland. On May 2 ex-nuclear power minister Yevgeny Adamov was detained by the Swiss authorities in light of a U.S. arrest warrant. A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh charged him and business partner Mark Kaushansky with 20 counts of money laundering and tax evasion. The 66-year old Adamov is accused of purloining some $15 million from funds the U.S. Department of Energy gave to the ministry's research institute, which Adamov headed from 1986 until his appointment as minister in 1998. Adamov was in Bern to help his 30-year old daughter, Irina, whose $250,000 bank account had been frozen as part of the same investigation (Rossiiskie vesti, May 12, Nezavisimaya gazeta, May 30, Nucleonics Week, May 12).

In March 2001 the State Duma's Anti-Corruption Commission released a report accusing Adamov of corruption, including reference to his buying a house in Pittsburgh. He was fired as minister, but no criminal charges were lodged against him.

Adamov declined speedy expedition to the United States. But his U.S. lawyer, Lanny Breuer, told Kommersant on May 13, "Adamov wants to come to the United States and answer all questions there as a free man, in order to dispel all the rumors tainting his name. But Dr. Adamov and I would like to know the position of the Russian government, because Dr. Adamov is privy to a lot of secrets."

Dmitry Cherkashin, Russia's ambassador to Switzerland, said, "He served as Russia's nuclear-energy minister; and his extradition would threaten Russian national-security interests" (RIA-Novosti, May 23). The fear is that as part of a plea bargain Adamov might spill the beans on Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran. There was an angry debate on the floor of the State Duma on May 12. Deputy Sergei Abeltsev said that Adamov should be assassinated in his jail cell. His Liberal Democratic Party of Russia colleague Alexei Mitrofanov merely recommended abduction.

The Russian government protested that they had not been informed of Adamov's impending arrest and claimed sovereign immunity for him as an ex-minister. When that did not work, they came up with a better idea – let's prosecute him ourselves! Moscow's Basmanny Court issued a warrant for his arrest on May 14, and the government promptly filed an extradition request on May 17, claiming priority under an 1873 Swiss-Russian treaty. (The U.S. has not yet filed a formal extradition request.) But on May 20 Adamov declined an invitation to accept expedited extradition to Russia, which suggests that he may be holding out for a "get out of jail free" card on his return (Kommersant, May 27)

Taken together, the Khodorkovsky and Adamov cases starkly reveal the utter cynicism of the Russian authorities in their use of the legal system. At least the Adamov arrest suggests that the Swiss are finally getting serious about tackling money laundering.

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