Case of Ukraine's oligarch Firtash could be used as a weapon against Trump

Author : Russian newsparer Novaya Gazeta

Source : 112 Ukraine

Knight without fear and beyond reproach turned into a Knight of the Rueful Countenance
08:48, 30 July 2019


Last Wednesday, Robert Mueller, a former special prosecutor, on whom the American Democrats had pledged their last hope to throw out Trump-usurper, has been questioned for six hours by the Congressmen. And the Knight without fear and beyond reproach turned into a Knight of the Rueful Countenance.

Here is a quote by Michael Moore: “A frail old man, unable to remember things, stumbling, refusing to answer basic questions.”

Indeed, 74-year-old Mueller has been constantly asking Congressmen to repeat the question and refused to answer about 200 of them. Moreover: it looked like he was out of the loop and did not know the basic details of “Russiahate” known to each self-professed experts in world affairs.

For example, he was not familiar with the name of Fusion GPS. This is an analytical company that, on instructions from the headquarters of Hillary Clinton and the National Committee of the US Democratic Party, allegedly ordered a former resident of MI-6 in Moscow Christopher Steele, an odious "Trump’s Dossier", which was at the origin of the “Russiahate.”

Laurence Tribe, a famous law professor at Harvard and a devoted supporter of Trump’s impeachment, tweeted that the hearing in the Legal Committee of the House of Representatives was just a disaster. “Much as I hate to say it, this morning’s hearing was a disaster," Tribe tweeted. "Far from breathing life into his damning report, the tired Robert Mueller sucked the life out of it. The effort to save democracy and the rule of law from this lawless president has been set back, not advanced."

And this only strengthened the suspicions of Republicans who have long said that the work of the Mueller team had ideological attachments of his allies from among the adherents of the Democratic Party.

This charge applies to at least 13 out of 17 Mueller prosecutors. The party affiliation of the remaining four is not exactly known. And it is no coincidence that characterizing Mueller's team, Trump took on the silly formulation of "13 angry Democrats."

Democrats parried: Mueller himself was a Republican. However, his speech in the Congress, which revealed Mueller's unfamiliarity with a number of key points in his report, suggested that this document was mainly composed of his immediate assistants, that is, the opponents of Trump.

Related: Firtash case: Trump criticized Muller for not investigating U.S. prosecutors

Republicans are not particularly fond of the former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissman, whose name has been mentioned more than once during Mueller's speech on the Capitol Hill. Weissman donated money to Clinton and was among her supporters who met on the night of November 8 to 9, 2016 to celebrate the failed triumph.

On the eve of Mueller's speech, Hollywood journalist John Solomon spoke about the role played by Weissman in the case of Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who was arrested in Austria in March 2014 and has been long trying to avoid extradition to the United States.

The case against Firtash was initiated in 2013 in the Chicago Federal Court, where he was charged with a criminal conspiracy to bribe Indian politicians and officials with the help of which the oligarch hoped to obtain a license for the extraction of ilmenite (manaccanite, titanium raw material) in Andhra Pradesh.

The case was instituted in Chicago, as there is the headquarters of the Boeing Corporation, which needed titanium for its new airliner Drimlaner 787 and was considering buying it from Firtash’s holding.

Firtash denies allegations. His American defenders demanded this year that Chicago judge Rebecca Pallmeyer close the case due to the wrong jurisdiction. The court refused.

Related: Rudy Giuliani: Firtash refused to lie for his benefit, he has more honor than American prosecutor

Firtash was released under a record deposit of 125 million euros, with the condition that he will not leave Austria. The court of first instance ordered not to extradite him, concluding that the US accusations against him had a political background.

However, it was first appealed, and in June the Austrian Supreme Court overturned the decision and opened the way for the extradition of Firtash. As a result, it was approved by Austrian Justice Minister Clemens Jabloner.

In Chicago, they were already preparing for the oligarch's reception, as the Vienna judge suddenly ruled that extradition was possible only after considering a new petition filed by Firtash’s Austrian lawyers, who, according to the court spokesman, presented "extremely detailed materials."

The materials are still a secret, but the aforementioned journalist John Solomon got acquainted with their content and, in particular, said that prosecutor Andrew Weissman had appealed to Firtash with an enticing proposal: he would give him a blackmailable thing on Trump, and in return, his Chicago case would be discontinued.

Related: Aftertaste of elections: Who was elected to Ukrainian parliament and why?

Moreover, according to Solomon, then the case against Firtash at that moment seemed to begin to fall apart: two key witnesses of the charge had abandoned their testimony, and the key document that the Chicago prosecutor's office denoted as "Webcard A" did not confirm Firtash’s blame at all.

Solomon cites Firtash's lawyers' request describing Weissman’s proposal. He allegedly promised that Mueller's team could "resolve Firtash's case" in Chicago, and assured that neither the US Department of Justice nor the Chicago Prosecutor's Office was able to interfere with his permission, which could include removing all allegations from the oligarch.

According to Solomon, Firtash's defense suspected that Weissman would take too much of himself because Mueller's competence was only an investigation into the Russiahate case, and he obeyed the Justice Ministry and could not guarantee anything on his behalf.

The defense was also confused by the fact that Weissman behaved atypically: usually in such situations, the prosecutor's office first asks the accused to write what information he can provide them.

But when Weisman and his FBI staff working with him met with American lawyers of Firtash on July 7, 2017, Weisman began to share with them his own versions of the actions of Trump, the former head of the polling headquarters of Paul Manaforth and other members of Russiahate.

According to Firtash's lawyer, Weissman told them that he was looking for damaging information on former FBI worker Felix Seitter, former Trump’s business partner, damaging information against Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

As Wiessman claimed to Firtash's defenders, he believed that "Manafort and his people, in fact, coordinated their activities with Russians in order to get employment in Ukraine." Lawyers told Solomon that Wiessman was trying to give a boost to the fact that the possible testimony of Firtash was given in the right direction. Now Firtash’s Austrian lawyers prove to the Vienna court that this maneuver of the American prosecutor's office testifies to the doubts and political motivations of claims to their defendant.

Firtash's lawyers argue that key witnesses of the charge not only refused from their testimonies in the summer of 2017, but also said that the FBI was wickedly distorting their words and forced them to sign testimony under pressure. One witness, for example, claims that the FBI took his passport from him and did not allow him to return to India and that his words about bribes were inserted in the record of interrogation by the back.

Related: American prosecutors intended to use Firtash case to assault Trump, - The Hill investigation

Finally, the Austrian advocates of the oligarch argue that the aforementioned "Media A", which allegedly proves the intention of Firtash to implement a corrupt scheme, is in fact a slide from the tutorial of the American advisory firm McKinsey and has nothing to do with Firtash.

When The New York Times first reported on this thing in December last year, McKinsey said that in 2006, Boeing, which was considering buying titanium from Firtash, asked the company to find out who should deal with the giant of the American aircraft industry.

McKinsey has constructed a hypothetical scheme, within which Firtash’s holding Bothli Trade A.G. would try to force the obtaining of the license for the extraction of ilmenite in Andhra Pradesh, investing in this state and bribing Indian figures.

The slide, appearing in the business as "Awesome", serves as an illustration of this imaginary scheme and is unrelated to real Firtash, McKinsey said after the New York Times. The prosecutors have not yet responded to the defense.

Volodymyr Kozlovsky, BBC New York freelance correspondent

Read the original text at Novaya Gazeta

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