(Bloomberg) -- A politically connected Russian who’s facing extradition to the US on charges of evading US sanctions and money-laundering escaped from house arrest in Milan after breaking his electronic bracelet.
Artem Uss, 40, the son of a Siberian governor, was accused by American prosecutors of being involved in a global network that illegally imported US technology to support President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
One of Uss’s Italy-based lawyers told Bloomberg by phone that the Russian’s whereabouts are still unknown. “We can confirm Artem Uss has escaped and we are shocked about that,” the lawyer said.
The fugitive Russian may already have left Italy on a private plane, the Corriera del Sera reported, without saying where it got the information from. Alerted after Uss took off the elecronic bracelet, police rushed to his home and broke down the door, but he had already disappeared, it said.
Uss gave Italian authorities the slip on Wednesday with the help of Russian agents, said Vladimir Osechkin, a human rights activist and founder of Gulagu.net, who says he received information from whistleblowers in Russia’s intelligence services. His account couldn’t be independently confirmed.
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Uss was arrested last October in Milan on charges that he and his associates had defrauded the US and violated sanctions by buying sensitive US technologies as well as sanctioned Venezuelan oil. He denied any wrongdoing and his father, Alexander, governor of the Krasnoyarsk region, denounced the accusations as politically-motivated.
About six weeks later a court released Uss to house arrest. A Milan court on Tuesday approved his extradition, though only on the charges of violating the embargo on buying Venezuelan oil and bank fraud.
Russia last year filed its own money-laundering charges against Uss, who in January asked a Milan court to send him back to his own country.
Russia has shown interest in swapping him for imprisoned former US Marine Paul Whelan, following the successful exchange of WNBA star Brittney Griner, in a bid to avoid him falling into US custody, according to two people close to the Russian intelligence services.
If Uss talked to US investigators, “perhaps in return for a reduced sentence or other inducements,” he could be “key to rolling up this network as well as assessing just how much it may have contributed to Russia’s military capabilities,” said Jodi Vittori, a professor at Georgetown University who studies US national security.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday that US authorities had shown little interest in an exchange, asked about a possible deal involving Uss. “I don’t know what will happen to Mr. Uss, though I hope in one way or another he returns home,” he said, according to the Tass state news service.
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