Authorities investigate Artem Uss’ escape. Milan prosecutors have sent letters rogatory to four different countries – Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Germany – to reconstruct the stages of the escape and find out who were the “strong and reliable people” that the Russian businessman thanked when he resurfaced in Moscow.
- Mr Uss escaped house arrest in the outskirts of Milan on March 22, as he was awaiting extradition to the United States. Italian authorities suspect the Kremlin was involved in his exfiltration, as it was facilitated by a network of accomplices and executed with remarkable skill.
- Also, Mr Uss’ father was the governor of a region in Siberia, and thus presumably close to Vladimir Putin.
Following the tracks. Mr Uss probably reached Belgrade, passing into Slovenia via the border city of Trieste, then Croatia, and finally, Serbia, so as to fly back to Russia. In all likelihood, he did so travelling by car. Investigators from the Carabinieri law enforcement agency provincial command in Milan are working to reconstruct the network that provided logistical and tactical support for his escape.
- Italian judges also sent inquiry letters to Germany to acquire information about Mr Uss’ associate, Yuri Orekhov, who was arrested on the same day the manager was apprehended at Malpensa Airport.
A step back. According to the international arrest warrant from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the two allegedly orchestrated transnational fraud and money laundering operations; carried out illegal export activities of military and sensitive dual-use technologies from the US to Russia; worked to smuggle of millions of barrels of oil from embargoed Venezuela through the US financial system; and laundered the proceeds of these illicit activities through a vast network of shell companies and banking relationships around the world.
Washington’s position. “While we were disappointed Uss escaped custody after he was found extraditable, we appreciate the subsequent steps taken by the Italian government to freeze his assets and begin nominating him for EU sanctions,” a US Embassy Spokesperson told our sister website.
- “This case exemplifies the need to apply extra scrutiny and security regarding individuals alleged to have violated sanctions or to have committed other criminal violations, given Russia’s unceasing work to undermine the rule of law in Europe and across the globe.”
The authorities’ probe. In recent weeks, Justice Minister Carlo Nordio sent inspectors to the Milan court to find out why the Russian was granted house arrest, despite US warnings about the danger of escape. Milan judges had explained that Mr Uss would not flee because he had interests in Italy, including a house owned by his wife, a bank account and corporate interests in a luxury hotel in Sardinia.
- All of this came notwithstanding a four-page order – “documented” and “amply motivated,” according to Minister Nordio – in which the Milan Court of Appeals prosecutor’s office had opposed the request for house arrest by pointing out that the individual had “bank accounts around the world and international backing” that put him at high risk of escaping.
- On Friday, the Justice Ministry explained that the judicial authority’s investigation is “in the germinal stage” and “currently covered by secrecy.”