March 14, 2014 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A billionaire Ukrainian business tycoon was arrested Friday on corruption charges in Chicago. Now, federal authorities here say they are moving to extradite the rich industrialist from overseas.
This has been a major story playing out in Europe the past 36 hours: the arrest of Dmitry Firtash, one of Ukraine's wealthiest and influential oligarchs. It was being reported that Firtash was arrested at the request of the FBI on American charges, but there were no details. A short time ago, we learned that the 48-year-old business mogul is being held on charges from a corruption case here in Chicago. Federal prosecutors say that they will be moving to extradite him from overseas to appear on the charges in a Chicago courtroom.
He may be the best known businessman in the Ukraine, and one of the wealthiest in the world. As he made a fortune buying and selling Russian natural gas, there have been years of whispers and innuendoes about his conduct and connections with Russian organized crime-- allegations he has always denied.
Tonight, Firtash is in state custody in Vienna, Austria, arrested by the country's organized crime unit on a provisional warrant from the FBI in Chicago.
Austrian officials say Firtash is alleged to have paid bribes and formed a criminal organization. To whom the bribes were paid, how much and for what isn't clear tonight and a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon in Chicago isn't providing further details, saying the case is sealed except for the arrest and extradition information.
His company employs 100,000 people across a wide range of industries from chemicals and banking to television stations, of which he owns eight overseas.
Firtash's arrest is not connected to the continuing political violence between Ukraine and Russia, according to federal authorities here in Chicago and a spokesperson for Firtash.
According to a statement on the billionaire's website, his arrest is related to an investment project dated 2006. The incident was a misunderstanding, the statement claims, and will be resolved in the nearest future.