The art of exfiltration? Last week, Russian manager Artem Uss – who was under house arrest near Milan and awaiting extradition to the United States – managed to flee undetected and has disappeared from the authorities’ sight. Having investigated the dynamics of the well-planned escape, enquirers now suspect that Russian secret services might have played a role.
- Washington had accused the manager of smuggling oil from Venezuela, violating an embargo, and purchasing high-end technological products and weapons on behalf of Russia, conceivably for use in the war against Ukraine.
- According to La Stampa, the US Department of Justice had also sent a letter to the Italian Ministry of Justice, suggesting to keep Mr Uss in detention due to the high risk of evasion.
- The attorney general did consider this: it originally had opposed house arrest, which was requested by the manager’s lawyers, but then reconsidered, estimating that the timing of the Supreme Court’s decision on the matter would probably have taken longer than the extradition procedure.
Mapping the system. Mr Uss’ disappearance was facilitated by a network of accomplices and a “surgical” operation executed with remarkable skill, clearly fleshed out in the most minute details. It involved several persons, including his wife Maria Yagodina, who rented the flat where the Russian manager was serving his house arrest, as Il Corriere della Sera reports.
Back in October, the Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had announced that the Russian diplomatic missions would “do their best to protect the interests of [Mr] Uss.”
How it played out. On March 22, Ms Yagodina flew back to Moscow. On March 21, an Italian court greenlit Ms Uss’ extradition to the United States. He appealed but disappeared the following day. And Italian authorities now suspect he possessed a mobile phone, with which he communicated with his wife, his lawyers (through an interpreter) and possibly with those who helped him escape.
- One man was caught on camera escorting Ms Uss out of the house shortly after 2 PM and helping him into a car parked in an isolated spot.
- That vehicle was clean, although its owner (an Eastern European citizen, reportedly) isn’t the driver. And the fleeing men probably swapped cars shortly after, likely before escaping through the land border with Switzerland or Slovenia.
- Ms Uss’ electronic bracelet sounded the alarm several minutes after it was supposedly taken off his person as he was well on his way aboard the car.
- Upon forcing their way into the apartment, one hour later, the local fire brigade only found a few remaining clothes.