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1 Nov, 2014 16:03

US arrests head of Russian nuclear subsidiary on extortion & conspiracy charges

US arrests head of Russian nuclear subsidiary on extortion & conspiracy charges

The head of a Russian subsidiary trading uranium fuel in the US has been arrested on extortion and conspiracy charges for causing financial damage to own parent company, after allegedly declining to give evidence against high-ranking Russian officials.

Russian national, Vadim Mikerin, 55, the general director of the TENAM USA Corporation based in Bethesda, Maryland, was taken into custody on Wednesday, October 29. Allegedly, he accepted $1,692,995 in kickback payments for providing lucrative $33 million contracts for transportation of radioactive material from Russia to the US, said an official United States Attorney’s Office release. If found guilty, Mikerin could face 20 years in prison.

TENAM is the US subsidiary of Moscow-based JSC Techsnabexport (TENEX), a company responsible for international sale and transportation of nuclear material produced by the Russian state-owned nuclear monopoly Rosatom and fully belongs to it.

The US investigators claim that in 2006, Mikerin conspired with Daren Condrey and Carol Condrey, principals of Transport Logistics International (TLI), based in Fulton, Maryland, to defraud TENEX by granting the TLI contracts to deliver uranium fuel from Russia to the US on a non-competitive basis.

Along with Vadim Mikerin and Condreys, who are in custody pending this criminal case, the US authorities have also arrested Boris Rubizhevsky, the president of NEXGEN Security (NEXGEN), a New Jersey corporation. From 2011 through 2012, Rubizhevsky served as a consultant to TENAM and to Mikerin and is believed to be the middleman between the TLI and Mikerin.

“Kickbacks deprive honest competitors of the opportunity to compete for business, and they cheat a company of its right to faithful decisions by its employee,” said US Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein who announced the criminal complaints against the defendants.

The Russian Foreign Ministry is providing all necessary legal assistance to Vadim Mikerin, said the Foreign Ministry’s Ombudsman, Konstantin Dolgov, in an interview to Russia 24 TV channel on Friday.

Russia’s Rosatom nuclear monopoly believes Vadim Mikerin’s criminal case to be politically motivated, the corporation's representative Sergei Novikov told TASS on Saturday. The Russian side has never been informed by its American counterparts about any economic damage caused by Mikerin.

RIA Novosti news agency said, with reference to the court’s published paperwork, that the initial arrest warrant for Vadim Mikerin was issued in August. It was called off because FBI agents intended to present Vadim Mikerin with proof of his alleged criminal activities to demand his cooperation in investigating activities of other Russian officials.

Because an arrest of a Russian citizen in the US could only be conducted by notifying the Russian consulate in the US, the agents intended to do the recruitment without arresting Mikerin to avoid public disclosure of their contacts.

Whether such meeting took place or not remains unknown, but since Mikerin has been arrested, it might mean he declined the proposal to cooperate against his colleagues.

According to US officials, Mikerin, who has headed TENAM USA since 2010, allegedly received bribes on several occasion during the final stages of the Russia-US Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase Agreement (signed in 1993, also known as Megatons-to-Megawatts).

In 2011, TENAM USA signed its first contract with an American company, United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC Inc.). They were to provide uranium enrichment services for US nuclear power plants till 2022. In 2013, TENAM signed another major contract, with American Fuelco LLC, for the direct import of Russian enriched uranium product into the United States.

In 2013, TENEX, one of the world’s leading suppliers of enriched uranium nuclear fuel, signed over 10 contracts worth more than $1 billion with clients in Asia, Europe and the US for supply of enriched uranium to nuclear power generation facilities. TENEX’s final 2013 turnover exceeded $3 billion.

TENEX’s orders, received from 30 companies in 16 countries for the next decade, is estimated at approximately $25 billion.