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5 Dec, 2023 20:11

US posts $7 million bounty on Russian entrepreneur

Washington wants Artyom Uss over charges of “transnational organized crime”
US posts $7 million bounty on Russian entrepreneur

The US State Department announced a $7 million reward on Tuesday for information leading to the arrest of Russian businessman Artyom Uss, who has been indicted in New York on charges of money laundering, oil smuggling and sanctions evasion.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York charged Uss, son of the governor of Russia's region of Krasnoyarsk Alexander Uss, and six others with four crimes in October 2022, including conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). The indictment was unsealed after Uss was detained at Milan’s Malpensa airport, as he was traveling to Türkiye via Italy. 

Alexander Uss has argued that the case was “obviously” politically motivated. Attorneys for Artyom Uss suggested that Washington was trying to obtain a hostage that could later be swapped for Americans imprisoned in Russia – such as Paul Whelan, convicted of espionage in 2020.

Uss was held under house arrest near Milan while his extradition case was pending. In March, an Italian court agreed to extradite him to American authorities, at which point he escaped and disappeared. He resurfaced in Russia a week later, thanking “strong and reliable” people who helped him over the course of “especially dramatic” several days.

The State Department’s bounty has been offered under the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program (TOCRP) and will supposedly be paid to whoever helps in the “arrest and/or conviction” of Uss “for conspiring to participate in or attempting to participate in transnational organized crime.”

Uss allegedly set up a private company in Hamburg, Germany that “orchestrated a transnational fraud, smuggling, and money laundering operation.” The Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH is accused of exporting “millions of US dollars in military and sensitive dual-use technologies” from the US to Russia and of using dollars to “facilitate the smuggling of millions of barrels of oil” from Venezuela, both in violation of US sanctions.