Adamov Sentenced To 5 1/2 Years

MTAdamov before being sentenced
Zamoskvoretsky District Court sentenced former Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov to 5 1/2 years in prison Wednesday, one day after it found him guilty of abuse of office and defrauding Russia and the United States out of millions of dollars.

The court ruled that Adamov and two colleagues had used their positions to steal more than $30 million from a Russian-U.S. uranium joint venture, causing "considerable damage" to the state.

The amount is more than triple the $9 million that the United States had accused Adamov of stealing.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher issued a statement late Tuesday "congratulating the General Procuracy for the successful conviction" of Adamov, according to Margaret Philbin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Two policemen burst into the stuffy and cramped courtroom seconds before Judge Irina Vasina and two colleagues ordered Adamov, 68, to be taken into custody to begin his sentence Wednesday.

"This is brutal," Adamov said immediately after the sentence had been read.

But he remained motionless as he listened to the sentence and as a police officer came to handcuff him.

"I think it's obvious to everyone what's really going on. My coat. I have a coat," Adamov added. The cuffs were briefly removed as a supporter handed him his coat.

As he was being escorted out of the courtroom, Adamov said that he considered the sentence "surprising" and that he would appeal. He was then whisked off down the back corridors of the court building.

Genri Reznik, Adamov's lawyer, said the case against his client had been fabricated.

"There is no evidence that 1 cent, or 1 ruble was stolen by Adamov," Reznik said. "He is the victim of cynical politics."

Prosecutors, who estimated in court that the knock-on effects of Adamov's illegal dealings had done $1 billion of damage to the economy, had asked for a longer term, but said Wednesday that they would accept the sentence handed down.

"I don't think we will appeal," said Victor Antopov, who headed the prosecution team in court.

Vasina ruled that Adamov and his co-defendants -- Revmir Fraishtut and Vyacheslav Pismenny -- had stolen 62 percent of the shares in the uranium joint venture. She said the total value of the shares was more than $30 million.

Adamov, Pismenny and Fraishtut operated as a "criminal group" when they embezzled the funds in 1998 and 1999, the ruling said. Adamov served as nuclear power minister from 1998 to 2001.

Pismenny is the former head of the Troitsky Institute of Innovation and Thermonuclear Research, and Fraishtut is the former director of Tekhsnabeksport, a state-owned firm that sells enriched uranium, among other things.

Adamov was arrested at the request of U.S. prosecutors while visiting his daughter in Switzerland in May 2005. He faces U.S. charges of embezzling $9 million provided by the United States to improve nuclear safety in Russia. Some of the money turned up in bank accounts in Pennsylvania, U.S. prosecutors said.

Russia objected to his extradition, saying the United States wanted to coerce Adamov into giving up Russian nuclear secrets. Switzerland extradited Adamov to Russia in December 2005 after Russian prosecutors charged him with fraud and abuse of office at home.

Adamov, who worked on nuclear technology sales to Iran during his tenure as minister, was dismissed in 2001 by President Vladimir Putin. At about the same time, an anti-corruption committee in the State Duma accused him of illegally setting up companies inside and outside Russia.

Antopov said Adamov's age and otherwise good government service record were responsible for shortening what could have been a 10-year sentence.

"This is a fair sentence," Antopov said, adding that Adamov would likely only have to serve "two or three years" of the term handed down by the court.

Around 100 people -- mostly journalists -- had packed into the small courtroom for the final part of the verdict. They watched in silence as the judges delivered the sentence.

The commotion stood in stark contrast to the day-long reading of the verdict, an ordeal that involved the three judges taking shifts at reading chunks of text, lulling many in the room to sleep.

As one judge read, the other two chatted. Adamov and Reznik indulged in whispers and synchronized head-shaking when the court's version of Adamov's history appeared to contradict theirs.

An indication that Adamov was resigned to his sentence even prior to it being read may have come in a short interview before the hearing began Wednesday.

"What do I expect? I expect a sentence," he said. "The rest is up to the powers that be."