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Refusal to cooperate with FBI likely behind detention of Russian top manager — expert

November 02, 2014, 2:02 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, November 1. /TASS/. Detention in the United States of TENAM Corp’s head Vadim Mikerin is likely to be connected with his refusal to cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for providing information about the deals of the Russian state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom and the Russian nuclear exporter Tekhsnabexport, head of the research centre Industry and Society Igor Ryabov told TASS.

Mikerin was detained in the United States on Wednesday on charges of conspiracy and extortion. The top manager is suspected in receiving "kickback payments" of over $1.5 million from $33 million-worth deals concluded with an American company for transportation of Russian enriched uranium. Mikerin was placed into custody and could face up to 20 years in prison.

“This case is not transparent enough,” said Ryabov, who is conducting researches in Rosatom projects in host cities. “The company has 12 contracts worth $5.8 billion and it is only in the United States. As far as I know, there has been no confirmation that the FBI asked Rosatom’s co-operation in this case although it would have been logical as Rosatom suffered the main damage.”

The expert does not rule out that Mkerin’s refusal to co-operate with the investigation and provide full information on Rosatom’s deals sanctioned his arrest.

“There is material evidence that Mikerin was offered to give evidence in exchange for co-operation with the FBI,” he said. “During the detention he was offered to co-operate with the FBI and tell them about all deals of Rosatom and its subsidiary Tekhsnabexport.”

“He refused to co-operate and it is inadmissible for a state official like Mikerin,” Ryabov said. “He rejected recruitment and was arrested.”

“A rather long period of limitation” can be questioned in the case.

“Mikerin is incriminated with giving a bribe for bids in 2006,” he said. “Since then and up to 2013 he allegedly took bribes for selling uranium to concrete US companies but if he is guilty, Mikerin should have been charged much earlier.”

The expert believes that the probe could be biased as it took place at the moment of a considerable worsening of relations between Russia and the United States.

“The arrest of a high-ranking official does not look like an unbiased investigation,” Ryabov said. “First, it was done at the peak of deteriorating relations between Russia and the United States, including in the hi-tech spheres like trade in highly enriched uranium.” And so Mikerin’s arrest can be regarded as another act of pressure from the West on Russia.

“There is an impression that our friends in the Anglo-Saxon world are probing our weak points in export potential,” he said. “Russia gains profits from hydrocarbon supplies in the world. Thus, a conflict should be created in Ukraine to worsen the situation there and to make it a lever for breaking ties between Russia and Europe. On the weapons market, the sanctions have been imposed for the same reason. Now they have felt that Russia is the largest exporter of uranium and earns billions of dollars. So the strike could be done by accusing one of the traders in corruption but also offering to co-operate with the FBI, just in case.”

Ryabov does not rule out a possibility that Russia would have to look for other markets in the nuclear sector. “The nuclear export of fuel for the nuclear sector is a complicated and fragile theme from the point of view of the global balance,” he said. “So it looks like taking a high-ranking trade hostage.”

TENAM Corporation is an American subsidiary of OAO Tekhsnabexport (TENEX) joint-stock company, which is one of the world’s leading exporters of products of the initial stage of the nuclear fuel cycle. The Atomenergoprom joint-stock company, incorporated into the Rosatom State Corporation, holds a 100% stake in TENEX.

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