A Russian accused of evading sanctions escaped house arrest in Italy
A Russian businessman wanted in the United States for money laundering and sanctions evasion has escaped from house arrest in Italy, a day after an Italian court approved his extradition.
Artem Uss, 40, the son of the governor of the Russian province of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, slipped out of his home in the small town of Basiglio near Milan on Wednesday afternoon despite being monitored with an electronic tag.
“An intensive investigation is underway to find him,” the Italian Carabinieri police said in a statement on Thursday.
Uss’ defense team said they did not know where he was, Russian state news agency Tass reported.
Uss, who had been issued an international arrest warrant, was detained at Milan International Airport on October 17, weeks after US authorities charged him with conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.
After about six weeks in prison, Uss was released under house arrest in early December following an Italian court order — wearing an electronic bracelet to monitor him.
According to the Carabinieri, officers rushed to the Russian’s home on Wednesday afternoon when the bracelet alarm signaled a possible escape. They found that he had already slipped.
Police – whose station was just 1.4 miles from Uss’ home – said officers had checked the home an hour earlier and found nothing wrong.
The day before Uss fled, an appeals court in Milan ruled that he could be extradited to the United States to stand trial for bank fraud and violating an embargo against Venezuela.
According to US prosecutors, Uss was a co-owner of Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau, a German commodity trading and industrial equipment business.
U.S. authorities alleged that he used the German trading company to buy sensitive U.S. military technology and then send it to Russian entities, including sanctioned companies.
The company also smuggled hundreds of millions of barrels of Venezuelan oil to buyers, including groups controlled by sanctioned oligarchs, the statement said.
While the Italian court ruled that the United States could not prosecute the Russian on charges of smuggling military equipment or money laundering, it said he could be prosecuted on the other two counts.
Shortly after Uss’s arrest in October, Moscow police hastily opened a money-laundering case against him in Russia and secured a court order for his extradition. The hasty request probably indicated that Russia wanted to save him from the American charges by placing him in pre-trial detention, reports Kommersant. was reported.
Uss asked in January, the court will extradite him to Russia instead of the United States. Russian state media suggested the United States wanted to use him as a pawn to exchange American citizens jailed in Russia, including ex-Marine Paul Whelan.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, asked on Wednesday about the possibility of an exchange prior to Uss’ escape, said Washington had not expressed interest in exchanging Uss for American citizens in the “earlier stages of the discussion.” However, Ryabkov added: “everything is possible.” Tass.
“I don’t know what will become of Mr. Uss. I hope he comes home one way or another. But for now there is no basis to talk about any kind of exchange,” Ryabkov said.
The Russian businessman’s embarrassing escape comes after Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni reiterated her commitment to Ukraine in the fight against the Russian invasion.
Meloni, who visited Kiev last month, promised in parliament this week that his government would support the Ukrainian cause even at the cost of its own popularity, because “it is right to do so from the point of view of national values and interests.”
Additional reporting by Giuliana Ricozzi in Rome