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Court ends long tug-of-war over Adamov

The Federal Court says Russia has won the argument

(Keystone)

The decision by Switzerland's federal court to extradite a former Russian minister to Russia rather than the US brings a charged political saga to an end.

The court announced on Thursday that Yevgeny Adamov should be sent home, overturning a decision by the Swiss justice ministry, which wanted to extradite him to the United States.

Adamov has been in Swiss custody since he was arrested in Bern last May at the request of the US. Russia shortly afterwards filed an official extradition request for the former minister, saying he was wanted there on suspicion of fraud.

The situation left Switzerland in the awkward position of having to offend either the superpower or a close neighbour with whom relations were already tense (see "Anger in Russia over Skyguide killing verdict").

After both sides repeatedly demanded his extradition, the justice ministry finally decided in October to honour the American request, even though Washington only submitted an official extradition demand two months after Adamov's arrest.

The justice authorities justified their decision on the grounds that sending Adamov to Moscow meant that he could not later be re-extradited to the US.

Appeal

Adamov, who was on hunger strike in a Swiss jail at the time, appealed against the decision, and the matter was handed over to the federal court.

Thursday's court ruling is a slap in the face for the justice authorities, and won't please the US. But it does enable Switzerland to extricate itself from a politically difficult situation, since it is the court, and not the government, which has the final word on the matter.

Justice ministry spokesman, Folco Galli, on Thursday confirmed that the court's decision was final, and that there was no possibility that an appeal would be heard.

He added that the court had not weighed up the arguments in the same way as the justice ministry, but declined to interpret further the court's decision.

Accused

For its part, the court said Adamov should be tried in Russia, given his nationality, and because the crimes he is accused of were committed in that country rather than in the US.

Adamov has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on charges of conspiracy to transfer stolen money and to defraud the United States, as well as money laundering and tax evasion.

He stands accused of diverting $9 million (SFr10.9 million) of US funds intended to improve security at Russia's nuclear facilities when he was atomic energy minister from 1998 to 2001.

Adamov's problems in Russia date back to 2001 when the anti-corruption committee of the lower house of parliament accused him of illegally setting up companies inside and outside Russia.

Motive

Shortly after Adamov's arrest in Switzerland, there were suggestions that the US's motive for seeking Adamov's extradition was to question him about Russia's atomic weapons programmes.

Andre Liebich, central and east European expert at Geneva's Graduate Institute for International Studies told swissinfo at the time that Washington was "very keen to see these programmes wound down and the arms decommissioned".

He added that the US had been paying in part for this process, and was "obviously expressing dissatisfaction with the way the Russians are proceeding in this matter".

swissinfo

Key facts

May 2: Adamov arrested in Bern at the request of the United States.
May 5: Adamov indicted by a US federal grand jury for conspiracy to transfer stolen money and to defraud the US as well as money laundering and tax evasion.
May 19: Swiss officials confirm receipt of an extradition request from Moscow.
Late June: US files formal extradition request.
July 19: Federal Court publishes ruling that Adamov must remain in Swiss custody, overturning earlier decision by the Federal Criminal Court.
October 3: US repeats demand for Adamov's extradition. Adamov says he will accept extradition to Russia.
October 3: Swiss justice ministry says Adamov will be extradited to the US. Russia condemns decision as "politically motivated".
October 7: Swiss announce extradition proceedings have been halted pending Adamov appeal.
Dec 29: Federal Court overturns justice ministry decision to extradite Adamov to the US, ordering that he be sent back to Russia instead.

end of infobox


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