ROME (AP) — Italy’s justice minister insisted Thursday his office bore no responsibility for the escape of a Russian businessman wanted by the United States, and blamed Milan judicial authorities for having released him to house arrest despite a flood of U.S. warnings that he posed a high flight risk.
In a briefing to lawmakers, Justice Minister Carlo Nordio denied he had any authority to reverse the Milan court’s decision and send Artyom Uss back to prison pending his extradition process. But Nordio said he had requested that prosecutors initiated a disciplinary investigation into the court’s decision and moved to freeze Uss’ assets.
Uss, the 40-year-old son of a Russian regional governor, escaped from Italy on March 22, a day after a Milan court recognized as legitimate the U.S. extradition request, and surfaced in Russia earlier this month.
He had been detained in October 2022 at Milan’s Malpensa Airport on a U.S. warrant accusing him of violating sanctions. In November, the Milan appeals court agreed to his request and released him from jail to house arrest, outfitted with an electronic monitoring bracelet.
An incredulous Nordio read aloud to lawmakers in Parliament’s lower chamber the Milan court’s rationale for the decision, which it reaffirmed even after the U.S. extradition request arrived. It noted that Uss had a home in Italy and a wife who vowed to look after him while under house arrest there.
“With this familial situation, having a wife and a home, this man went home from jail with a bracelet, despite the fact that judicial authorities had been inundated with indications he was a high flight risk,” Nordio said, citing numerous notes his office had relayed to Milan judicial authorities from the U.S. Justice Department identifying Uss as a flight risk.
Nordio denied he could have done anything to reverse the Milan sentence, saying he had no authority to interfere in the independence of the judiciary.