The U.S. government has “thousands of intercepts” that can be used as evidence against Ukrainian billionaire oligarch Dmitry Firtash, federal prosecutors told a judge Friday as the fight over his extradition to Chicago rumbled on.
But lawyers for Firtash — who has ties to President Donald Trump‘s former campaign manager Paul Manafort — walked back their recent claim that Firtash could be brought from Austria to the U.S. “within weeks.”
Firtash, who has links to Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s Kremlin, has been fighting extradition from Vienna since 2014. Accused of masterminding an international titanium mining racket involving Chicago-based Boeing, he wants U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer to throw out his case before Austrian authorities put him on a plane to Chicago.
His lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, on Friday said Firtash’s long battle in the Austrian courts should wrap up “within two to four months,” an apparent downgrade from the “great risk” of imminent extradition he had previously warned of.
Webb said Firtash preferred to remain in Austria while the case is being argued because he couldn’t run his business if he were “in shackles in the MCC” — a reference to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago.
And Webb took offense to Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu‘s warning that Firtash might skip his $174 million bail and flee Austria on a private jet if Pallmeyer quickly rules against him.
Bhachu wants Pallmeyer to delay ruling over whether she has jurisdiction to hear the case until Firtash is in U.S. custody. Adding to his revelation earlier this week that the U.S. secretly recorded a phone call in which Firtash discussed a co-defendant’s trip to Chicago to meet with Boeing executives, Bhachu said the government has “tens of thousands” of documents and “thousands of intercepts” that can be used against Firtash.
The latest revelation about the scale of U.S. wire tapping may add to the intrigue surrounding Firtash’s ties to Manafort, with whom he discussed a New York real estate deal in 2008. Though Manafort is not named in the Chicago case, his home was raided as part of special prosecutor Robert Mueller‘s investigation of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, and he spent the better part of a decade advising ousted pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, to whom Firtash was a key supporter.
Pallmeyer said she would rule within the two-to-four month widow that Webb requested.