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Russian Billionaire Could Be Link Between Trump, Russia

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He was a business partner with a former Donald Trump campaign manager. He’s a wealthy Russian oligarch who made billions in natural gas—possibly with help from President Vladimir Putin—and he was also tied to Ukraine’s Russia-friendly former President Viktor Yanukovych.  

It’s also possible he might be a missing link to Trump and his campaign and administration’s alleged ties to Russia. It doesn’t end there: He may be headed to the United States to face racketeering charges.

His name is Dmitry Firtash and an Austrian appeals court ruled Tuesday that he could be extradited to the U.S., overturning a lower court’s ruling and flipping his fate over to Austria’s Ministry of Justice, Bloomberg reported.

“It wasn’t for us to judge whether Mr. Firtash was guilty, but only whether the extradition is allowed,” Judge Leo Levnaic-Iwanski said. “This decision only means that another country will make a decision whether he is guilty.”

Firtash, 51, was originally detained by Austrian officials on an arrest warrant for money laundering charges in Spain, according to Financial Times, and it will be up to the justice ministry to decide between the U.S. and Spain. There were also reports that Firtash reacted to the judge’s verdict in “silent horror.”

Firtash was arrested in Vienna in March 2014—shortly after Yanukovych was ousted from power by protesters—posted a $174 million bail and has remained in Austria ever since to await its courts’ ruling on his fate.

In April 2014, the Justice Department handed down six indictments, including one against the Ukrainian foreign national that alleged a conspiracy was undertaken to pay $18.5 million in bribes to Indian government officials to mine titanium along the country’s eastern coast. If it had been successful, the mine could have resulted in $500 million in sales of titanium products, including some sales to Chicago-based Boeing.

The charges in Spain stem from allegations of money laundering in Catalonia, where he possibly funneled more than $10.5 million through companies based in Cyprus and the Virgin Islands with two other unnamed men, according to FT.

What does this have to do with Trump, Putin and all the alleged ties to Russia? Well, Firtash was a former business partner of Paul Manafort, who served as chairman for Trump’s campaign last year and was also a political consultant in Ukraine while helping get Yanukovych elected. The New York Times reported in August that secret ledgers showed Manafort was paid $12.7 million from Yanukovych’s political party between 2007 and 2012. Manafort left the Trump campaign, however, the payments have not been confirmed.

And last week, anonymous sources with information regarding the U.S. intelligence community’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s “repeated” contact with Russian intelligence officials last year also included Manafort’s calls with the Russians, the Times reported.

In a far-reaching and extensive report on Firtash’s fate and possible links to Trump and Putin, Bloomberg last week detailed Manafort’s ties to Firtash. Former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko alleged in a lawsuit filed in a U.S. court in 2011 that the hotel and shopping mall Manafort and Firtash had planned to build in midtown Manhattan was nothing more than a means to launder money.

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