A Russian official living in Maryland pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit money laundering for taking over $2 million in bribes in exchange for transport contracts with the Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation.
Vadim Mikerin, 56, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang of the District of Maryland.
Sentencing is scheduled for December 8.
Mikerin was a director of the Pan American Department of JSC Techsnabexport (Tenex).
Tenex, based in Moscow, is a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation. It acts as the sole supplier and exporter of Russian Federation uranium and uranium enrichment services to nuclear power companies worldwide.
The DOJ also announced Monday that Daren Condrey, 50, of Glenwood, Maryland, pleaded guilty on June 17 to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and conspiring to commit wire fraud.
He’ll be sentenced on November 2.
Condrey and his wife Carol were principals of Transport Logistics International (TLI), based in Fulton, Maryland.
From 1996 to 2013, TLI contracted with Tenex to transport uranium from Russia to the U.S. TLI was paid $33 million, the DOJ said.
The uranium came from a program the U.S. started with Russia in 1993 to remove unsecured nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union in exchange for cash. As much as 10 percent of the U.S. electricity supply came from Russian uranium at one point.
Boris Rubizhevsky, 64, of Closter, New Jersey, pleaded guilty on June 15 to conspiracy to commit money laundering, the DOJ said Monday. He’ll be sentenced on October 19.
The FBI earlier described Rubizhevsky as a consultant to Mikerin.
In October 2014, Mikerin was charged with conspiring to commit extortion. Condrey and his wife and Rubizhevsky were charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud.
Condrey’s wife was later dropped from the case as part of a plea deal.
The defendants conspired together to send $2.1 million in bribes from TLI to Mikerin to offshore shell company bank accounts in Cyprus, Latvia, and Switzerland, the DOJ said Monday.
Mikerin admitted “the funds were transmitted with the intent to promote a corrupt payment scheme that violated the FCPA,” according to the DOJ.
Specifically, he admitted that the corrupt payments were made by conspirators to influence Mikerin and to secure improper business advantages for U.S. companies that did business with Tenex.
To hide the bribes, the defendants used consulting agreements and code words such as “lucky figure,” “LF,” “cake,” and “remuneration.”
As part of his plea deal Mikerin agreed to forfeit the $2.1 million he took in bribes.
Foreign officials who take bribes can’t be charged under the FCPA. It only targets bribe payers.
The FBI began investigating Mikerin in 2007.
When U.S. authorities confronted him, he initially refused to cooperate.
He was then arrested and denied bail in November 2014 “after prosecutors successfully argued that senior Russian government officials involved in that country’s nuclear industry could help spirit him out of the country before trial,” the Wall Street Journal said.
Following Mikerin’s arrest, the Russia foreign ministry said the actions of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies raised “serious questions.”
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.