Firtash Stays in Custody as $174 Million Bail Is Set

Dmitry Firtash, the Ukrainian billionaire who made his fortune importing Russian gas, will remain in custody for possible extradition to the U.S., a Vienna court ruled. Bail was set at 125 million euros ($174 million).

The court still has to rule on the extradition request for Firtash, 48, who was detained yesterday, the city criminal court said in a statement today. U.S. authorities suspect him of bribery and participating in a criminal organization, the court said. Firtash appealed the verdict, it said.

The U.S. Justice Department said in a news release today that the charges stem from “an alleged international corruption conspiracy” and aren’t related to the confrontation with Russia over Ukraine.

If he pays the bail, he will have to remain in Austria and has pledged to do so, the court said. The amount was based on the detainee’s wealth and the severity of the crimes alleged, the court said.

Eugen Smagliuk, a spokesman for Firtash, had no immediate comment. Firtash’s detention is “the result of a misunderstanding,” and “the situation will be resolved in the nearest future,” his Group DF holding company said in a statement posted on its website today.

The bail is the highest ever set in Austria, surpassing the 100 million euros banker Julius Meinl V. had to pay in 2008.

Firtash is a co-owner of RosUkrEnergo AG, once Ukraine’s sole importer of Russian natural gas. He controls his assets through Group DF, which employs 100,000 people in Ukraine.

He also owns eight television stations and last year paid $2.5 billion for InterMedia Group Ltd., which operates the country’s biggest TV channel. While Forbes magazine estimates his fortune at $673 million, a 2008 secret U.S. cable said he was previously worth $5 billion and “had low-balled his true worth.”

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