A Russian man detained in Armenia late last week is facing extradition to the United States where he is wanted on charges of money laundering and illegal arms trade which he strongly denies.
Sergey Mironov, a 30-year-old information technology (IT) engineer, was detained by the Armenian police when he arrived at Yerevan’s Zvartnots international with his wife on a flight from Moscow on Friday. The couple planned to spend their summer holiday in Armenia.
A police statement released afterwards said U.S. law-enforcement authorities issued an international arrest warrant for Mironov on May 11. They have charged the Russian national with several counts of money laundering and illegal transfer of military technology from the U.S, the statement said. It did not elaborate.
A Yerevan court on Monday refused to allow Armenian prosecutors to keep Mironov under arrest, ordering his immediate release. But according to Mironov's lawyers, it also ruled that he cannot leave Armenia pending a decision on his extradition.
Under Armenian law, Justice Minister Arpine Hovannisian can reject extradition requests submitted by foreign states. Her possible decision to hand over Mironov to relevant U.S. authorities would have to be approved by the court within the next 40 days.
Neither the Justice Ministry nor any other Armenian government body has so far commented on the case that can potentially strain Armenia’s close relationship with Russia.
One of Mironov’s lawyers, Ruben Kirakosian, said the Russian Embassy in Yerevan provided the court with a written guarantee that his client will not attempt to flee Armenia if set free. The court did not discuss the Russian’s extradition during Monday’s hearing, he said.
Mironov looked happy as he walked free and was greeted in the courtroom by his wife. “I hope that this matter will be settled, all charges will be dropped and I will return home,” he said.
Mironov, who works at the Moscow office of the Russian-Belarusian IT firm Sinezis, similarly denied the U.S. allegations when he briefly spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) just before the court hearing.
“I’m puzzled by that,” he said of the allegations. “I have only once visited the United States and it was a business trip. We spent a week in the Silicon Valley.”
According to Karen Nersisian, another lawyer for Mironov, the U.S. claims stem from the purchase by the Sinezis engineer of a U.S.-made night-vision device in 2014.
“The sum was transferred and the product was due to be shipped to Russia,” said Nersisian. “But when they received the parcel in Russia it was empty. Nevertheless, American authorities claim that it was a crime.”
The lawyer alleged that it was U.S. “security service agents” who offered Mironov to buy the device for $50,000.
The U.S. Embassy in Armenia refused to comment on the case on Monday, referring all inquiries to the authorities in Yerevan.