Italy’s justice minister has initiated disciplinary action against three judges who granted house arrest to a Russian businessman facing extradition to the United States who later escaped and fled to Russia, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday (April 19).
Artem Ussa was scheduled to face charges in the US for smuggling oil from Venezuela against the law and for bank fraud.
One day after a Milan judge authorized his extradition to the US, the suspect last month departed his house in Basiglio, a suburb of Milan. Although his electronic tag did trigger an alarm, Uss escaped the scene before the police could reach.
The sources state that Italian Minister Carlo Nordio alleged “gross and inexcusable negligence” on the part of the Milan Court of Appeal judges for granted the suspect home arrest in November despite resistance from the Attorney General’s Office.
The prosecutor’s office emphasized the suspect’s substantial financial resources and the genuine risk of flight because he is the son of the Krasnoyarsk area governor, according to the sources.
The Milan court did not comment, but the National Association of Magistrates (ANM) condemned Nordio’s move, saying it undermines the independence of the judiciary and tries to divert attention from criticism of the government’s own handling of the case. It also said that the minister could have intervened when Uss was placed under house arrest, but did not.
In a statement, the Milan Bar Association decried Nordio’s response and said that they perceived a “strong element of intimidation” in his activities against the court.
It is unusual for the government to comment on the specifics of technical judgments rendered by the judiciary, which is separate from the executive branch, according to legal and judicial sources.
The government was humiliated by the escape, and Prime Minister Georgia Maloney condemned the initial choice to place Usu under house arrest.
On Thursday, Nordio is anticipated to address the legislature to provide an update on the situation.