Ukrainian Billionaire Arrested In Austria Knows A Whole Lot About Putin's Gas Empire

FirtashREUTERS/Maks LevinFirtash in Kiev on May 18, 2010.

A Ukrainian oligarch detained could hand over a “treasure trove”of information about gas deals involving the Russian state gas exporter Gazprom, Irina Reznik and Henry Meyer of Bloomberg report.

Authorities detained Dmytro Firtash, one of Ukraine’s richest men, in Vienna earlier this month. He has been under FBI investigation since 2006.

Bloomberg notes that Firtash, 48, has information that could be crucial for U.S. lawmakers seeking harsher sanctions against the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A new bill approved by a U.S. Senate panel could widen the scope of sanctions to include any Russian involved in “significant” corruption.

Mikhail Korchemkin, a former analyst for the Soviet Union’s Gas Ministry in Moscow and founder of Malvern, Pennsylvania-based East European Gas Analysis, told Bloomberg that Firtash has information that the U.S. would consider to be evidence of corruption in Gazprom.

Firtash, 48, made his estimated $US2.3 billion fortune being a key broker of Russia’s gas sales to Ukraine. He owned half of RosUkrEnergo with a partner, which became Ukraine’s sole gas importer in 2006 to 2009 (Gazprom controlled the other half of RosUkrEnergo).

“Firtash was very deeply involved in the fine print of Gazprom’s dealings in Ukraine, in the financial transactions,” Korchemkintold Bloomberg. “If Firtash strikes a deal with the FBI and starts to give testimony it could threaten severe consequences for Gazprom managers and the company itself.”

Check out the full report at Bloomberg >

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