A Russian nuclear firm under FBI investigation was allowed to purchase US uranium supply
By Sara A. Carter
Fifteen months before the 13 members of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS, approved the sale of the Canadian company Uranium One to Russia’s nuclear arm giant Rosatom, the FBI began investigating persons who were connected to the Russian state corporation. The FBI said in court documents and in interviews conducted by Circa that by 2010 they had gathered enough evidence to prove that Rosatom-connected officials were engaged in a global bribery scheme that included kickbacks and money laundering. FBI officials said the investigation could have prevented the sale of Uranium One, which controlled 20 percent of U.S. uranium supply under U.S. law.
The deal which required approval by CFIUS, an inter-agency committee who reviews transactions that leads to a change of control of a U.S. business to a foreign person or entity that may have an impact on the national security of the United States. At the time of the Uranium One deal the panel was chaired by then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and included then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-Attorney General Eric Holder.
By the time CFIUS approved the sale of Uranium One to Rosatom the FBI’s investigation had already gathered substantial evidence of bribery and kickbacks against a Russian national, Vadim Mikerin, who was then a top official with Rosatom’s Tenex subsidiary, according to court documents. The FBI said while at Tenex, which was located in Maryland, Mikerin was involved in multiple bribery and kickback schemes.
In a 2015 affidavit, FBI officials said Mikerin, “with the consent of higher level officials at Tenex and Rosatom (both Russian state-owned entities), would offer no-bid contracts to U.S. businesses in exchange for kickbacks in the form of money…” made to offshore accounts, stated the affidavit in support of a search warrant. Mikerin pled guilty to the allegations.
The Justice Department didn’t move forward an indictment with prosecution of bribery by people tied to Rosatom, through subsidies and other entities, until 2014 after CFIUS approved the sale of Uranium One, leaving the American public without knowledge of the Russian company’s allegedly illegal actives as it went to procure one-fifth of U.S. uranium supply.
In August 2015, Mikerin pled guilty to money laundering conspiracy involving violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, according to a Department of Justice press release. By the end of 2015, four defendants were indicted in the years long investigation, according to court records and a Justice Department.
“Mikerin admitted that he conspired with Daren Condrey, Boris Rubizhevsky and others to transmit approximately $2,126,622 from Maryland and elsewhere in the United States to offshore shell company bank accounts located in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland with the intent to promote the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations,” according to a DOJ press release announcing the charges against the then defendants in 2014. “Mikerin further admitted that the conspirators used consulting agreements and code words to disguise the corrupt payments.”
Condrey was an executive of an American trucking company, Transportation Logistics International (TLI) based in Fulton, Maryland, which was authorized at the time to move Russian uranium around the United States, according to contracts and documents reviewed by Circa. Condrey pled guilty in June 2015, to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and conspiring to commit wire fraud.
Rubizhevsky, a Russian national, who was the president of NEXGEN security, in New Jersey, worked as a consultant for Mikerin and Tenam, according to court documents. He aided in the scheme to get the contracts awarded to TLI, according to the Justice Department. Rubizhevsky pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in June 2015.
“A Russian state-owned enterprise responsible for selling Russian nuclear materials, contracted with a U.S. public relations expert in 2009 to provide public relations and marketing consulting services to TENEX in the United States,” states a court warrant. “The contractor approached the FBI and received authorization to participate in the scheme.”
Victoria Toensing, a lawyer for the FBI informant, said her client “is not only afraid of the Russian people, but he is afraid of the US government because of the threats the Obama administration made against him.”
My client was providing information for a couple years before this really got voted on by CFIUS, and here’s the rub. High-ranking law enforcement officials in the Obama Administration knew that there was corruption in this company and that information about the corruption in this Russian entity never made it to CFIUS, evidently, because CFIUS authorized the purchase in 2010.
— Victoria Toensing, lawyer
Toensing said, “My client was providing information for a couple years before this really got voted on by CFIUS, and here’s the rub. High-ranking law enforcement officials in the Obama Administration knew that there was corruption in this company and that information about the corruption in this Russian entity never made it to CFIUS, evidently, because CFIUS authorized the purchase in 2010.”
According to a 2010 press released from Tenex, a Rosatom subsidy, the company had signed “10 -long term Enriched Uranium Product supply contracts with eight U.S. utilities exceeding $4.3 billion and is aiming to expand its operations in the USA and beyond.”
By late October 2010, “Technabexport (TENEX) opened its first subsidiary in the United States,” known as Tenam Corp., which was a part of the Russian state nuclear arm Rosatom, according to press releases and documents.
One of the points of contention for people investigating the Clinton’s connections with Russia and the Uranium One deal was a $500,000 payment given to Bill Clinton by the Russian bank Renaissance Capital for a speech he gave in Moscow in June 2010. Analysts at Renaissance Capital, who paid the Bill Clinton for the speech, spoke highly of Uranium One’s stock saying in July 2010 research report that it was “the best play” in the uranium markets. The speech by Bill Clinton and the 2010 research report by Renaissance Capital happened while CFIUS, of which Hillary Clinton was a sitting member, was looking at the Uranium One sale to Rosatom. A spokesperson for Hillary Clinton did not return calls seeking comment and no evidence has been presented the speech payment made to Bill Clinton had any connection to the passage of the deal. Officials at Renaissance Capital could not be reached immediately for comment.
At the time of the investigation did any of the U.S. law enforcement, intelligence or other agencies involved in the case inform the CFIUS board of the ongoing investigation? If not, why not? If they were informed, why did they make the decision they did to approve the Uranium One transaction? Did the president, himself, know?
— U.S. official
“At the time of the investigation did any of the U.S. law enforcement, intelligence or other agencies involved in the case inform the CFIUS board of the ongoing investigation? If not, why not? If they were informed, why did they make the decision they did to approve the Uranium One transaction? Did the president, himself, know?,” a U.S. official who worked counterintelligence cases related to Russia told Circa.
The bribery schemes included delivering thousands of dollars in yellow envelopes, laundering tens of thousands of dollars in briefcases or wiring thousands of dollars through shell companies through the Seychelle Islands, Latvia, Cyprus and Switzerland to name a few.
During the time of the FBI’s investigation which began in 2009, Tenex was able to expand its American foothold with $6 billion in new utility contracts, according to documents and news reports obtained by Circa.
The case being built against Mikerin in 2010 was under the supervision of Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, then an Obama appointee who now serves as President Trump’s deputy attorney general. According to court documents, the case was also handled by then Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who is currently the deputy FBI director under Trump. The Department of Justice and the FBI would not comment on the bribery investigation of Mikerin.
Other agencies, including the CIA, State Department and U.S. Department of Energy were also involved in their own extensive investigations during that same period regarding Rosatom, according to several U.S. officials who spoke to Circa. It is unclear what the end results were of those investigations.
“One thing is certain, other agencies must have known what was going on but more importantly, did the CFIUS members?” said one U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak on the matter.
Part One of a multi-part series