US Court Sentences Russian Nuclear Official in $2.1 Million Bribery Scheme
A US federal court sentenced Vadim Mikerin to 48 months in prison this week for facilitating a US$ 2.1 million bribery scheme as the middleman between American companies and Russian nuclear officials exporting uranium to the US, reported Reuters.
Mikerin pleaded guilty last summer to transferring approximately US$ 2.1 million in bribes to offshore bank accounts in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland. The US Department of Energy said the corrupt deal provided fuel for 10 percent of American electricity at one point.
The sentence is the culmination of a seven-year investigation which began with US intelligence agents scrutinizing Russian nuclear officials, according to court records obtained by Reuters.
American federal agents tried to enlist Mikerin to work undercover for them in its probe of senior Russian energy officials. Their investigation uncovered possible links between Mikerin, Russian officials and various shell companies.
When Mikerin refused to cooperate, they arrested him in October 2014 and charged him with accepting bribes.
Mikerin was the ex-president of a US-based Rosatom subsidiary, TENAM, according to an FBI press release. TENAM, Rosatom’s representative company in the US, was the sole supplier of Russian uranium to the US. Mikerin oversaw all uranium shipments to US power plants.
The uranium was supplied as part of the “Megatons to Megawatts” program, an agreement between Washington and Moscow in which uranium was converted from thousands of decommissioned Russian nuclear warheads to fuel for US power plants.
Court documents show that between 2004 and 2014, a set of conspirators planned to make corrupt payments to Mikerin to secure unfair business advantages, according to the FBI press release. Russian officials from Rosatom, Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation, allegedly received bribes from US companies interested in importing uranium in exchange for contracts given to them without tenders.
Among the conspirators was the owner of Transport Logistics International (TLI), Daren Condrey, who pleaded guilty in June to bribing Mikerin and Boris Rubizhevsky, president of New Jersey-based NEXGEN Security, who acted as Mikerin’s middleman by receiving and laundering his kickbacks as consulting fees, stated the FBI in a press release.
Reuters reported that Mikerin’s lawyer, Jonathan Lopez, argued that his client served as a conduit for the payments but he was neither the mastermind nor the the ultimate beneficiary of the bribes. US prosecutor Ephraim Wernick said the bribery scheme was a threat, given the nuclear materials involved.