The latest on the Uss saga. Italian authorities are investigating the events that led to the Russian manager’s escape from house arrest – most notably, why he wasn’t detained more securely, despite the evident risk of him escaping and the United States’ warnings to that end.
- Justice Minister Carlo Nordio recently asked the judges in Milan who had granted house arrest to Mr Uss to clarify.
The judiciary’s response. On Friday, the Milan Court of Appeals answered it could not have turned the house arrest into a detention sentence after the decision had been taken. It’s impossible to aggravate the precautionary measure ex officio, it explained, barring two exceptions:
- That Mr Uss, who was arrested on October 17 at the Malpensa airport, violated the terms of his house arrest…
- … or that the Prosecutor General, and even the Ministry of Justice itself, requested aggravating the measure — which they could have done at any moment, explained the Court.
A step back. In March, Mr Uss escaped from house arrest (likely with the help of Russian intelligence and local connections) after the authorization for extradition to the US.
- The US accused Uss of alleged illegal trafficking of dual-use civilian and military material, oil smuggling from Venezuela to China and Russia in violation of sanctions, money laundering, and bank fraud.
- On March 22, he managed to escape. The day before, a court in Milan approved his extradition to the US, facing up to 30 years in prison on charges of sanctions evasion and money laundering.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you. US authorities had feared that outcome, as evidenced by a letter sent by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of International Affairs to the Italian Ministry of Justice’s Office of International Cooperation.
- The Italian Ministry of Justice responded on December 6, stating that the decision to increase the penalty was up to the Court. However, it reassured colleagues overseas by saying that the measure of house arrest with an electronic ankle tag (ordered on November 25 and executed on December 2, precisely because it was necessary to obtain the electronic device) was equivalent to imprisonment.
A “low-risk profile”. Judges deemed the suspect was at low-risk of flight because he was rooted in Italy: his wife had a business, the couple was buying a house, and their children were enrolled in a local school. This is what the Milan Court of Appeals wrote in the order of November 25, which imposed house arrest with an electronic ankle tag on Uss.
- Mr Uss “ha[d] undertaken a process of gradually shifting the centre of his economic and family interests to Italy,” had “demonstrated to have a residence” in Basiglio, in the Milan area.
- Thus, given “this family situation, the maintenance of the most restrictive measure of imprisonment is no longer necessary,” wrote the judges.
The escape. The report also included a detailed description of the intervention by the Carabinieri.
- Mr Uss’s electronic ankle tag was inactive from 13:52 on March 22. When the alarm was triggered, the commander on duty at the Milan operational centre communicated the need for immediate intervention to the Corsico company, as recorded in the active log at 14:07. However, when the military personnel arrived at the scene, he was already gone.
- On April 4, Mr Uss spoke his first words after the escape to the Russian news agency Ria Novosti.