Swiss OK extradition of ex-Russia nuclear chief

File picture of former Russian Atomic Energy Minister Adamov
Former Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov, shown in an Oct. 27, 2000, file photo, wants to be extradited to Russia, not the United States.Alexander Natruskin / Reuters file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Switzerland has decided to extradite Russia’s former nuclear minister to the United States on charges of stealing up to $9 million that was intended to improve security of nuclear plants, the Justice Ministry said Monday.

Russia has been fighting the U.S. extradition request for Yevgeny Adamov out of fear that he could reveal nuclear secrets while facing the charges in the United States.

Adamov has accepted extradition only to Russia and has 30 days to appeal to the Swiss supreme court, the ministry said. He announced he was going on a hunger strike to press for extradition to Russia or his release.

“Not recognizing a single charge brought against me, and having no other way to protest against my actually unlimited confinement, I declare a hunger strike until the (Swiss) Federal Office of Justice decides on my extradition or release,” Adamov said in a statement published by the Russian daily Izvestia. The Swiss ministry said only he had begun a hunger strike.

Arrested on U.S. warrant
Swiss authorities arrested the nuclear physicist on a U.S. warrant on May 2, while he was visiting his daughter in Bern. A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh has since indicted him on charges of conspiracy to transfer stolen money and securities, conspiracy to defraud the United States, money laundering and tax evasion.

U.S. authorities suspect Adamov of embezzling U.S. Energy Department funds and diverting them into private projects in the United States, Ukraine and Russia.

The U.S. extradition request was given priority over the Russian one because, “had priority been given to Russia, Adamov’s Russian citizenship would have meant that he could not subsequently have been extradited onward to the (United States),” the ministry said.

It said also the United States could later deport Adamov to Russia after its justice proceedings conclude.

Adamov was appointed Atomic Energy Minister in 1998 by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin, but came under criticism in connection with corruption allegations and his proposal to import nuclear waste to Russia for reprocessing.

Criticism of Iran nuclear aid
He also angered U.S. authorities when he shrugged off their objections to Russia’s assistance to Iran’s nuclear energy program.

In 2001, the anti-corruption committee of Russia’s State Duma, or lower house of parliament, accused Adamov of illegally setting up companies inside and outside Russia, including a consulting firm called Omeka registered in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.

Adamov was dismissed from his post in March 2001 as part of a Cabinet reshuffle engineered by President Vladimir Putin one year after taking office. After leaving the minister’s post, Adamov joined the Dollezhal Institute and worked on projects to improve safety at Russia’s 11 Chernobyl-type reactors still in operation.

The Russian Embassy in Bern was not immediately available to comment.

Viktor Ilyukhin, a communist lawmaker in Russia’s State Duma, questioned the U.S. motive in its extradition request. “Parliament believes the U.S. is interested in having at its disposal a Russian ex-minister with secret information of great interest to U.S. intelligence services,” Ilyukhin was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.