US sentences Russian nuclear official to four years in jail

The US sentences Russian nuclear official to 48 months in jail over bribe scheme

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The logo of Russian state nuclear monopoly Rosatom is pictured at the World Nuclear Exhibition 2014, the trade fair event for the global nuclear energy sector, in Le Bourget, near Paris October 14, 2014

A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a former nuclear official of Russia's state-run enterprise Rosatom to 48 months in prison for his role in a scheme that awarded contracts to American companies in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes.

Vadim Mikerin, former president of a US-based Rosatom subsidiary, pleaded guilty last summer to helping orchestrate more than $2 million in bribe payments through a web of secret accounts in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland.

Authorities have said those payments went to Russian nuclear energy officials in exchange for contracts to US companies involved in the shipment of uranium from Russia. Attorneys for Rosatom have said Mikerin acted alone.

In considering the sentence, United States District Judge for the District of Maryland Theodore D. Chuang said he weighed the sensitivity of shipping nuclear materials safely through the United States. For that business "to be corrupted by graft is very troubling," he said.

As president of Tenam, a US-based Rosatom subsidiary, Mikerin oversaw the shipment of uranium from Russia for use in American power plants. Much of that material was drawn from decommissioned Russian weapons under an agreement with Washington known as the "Megatons to Megawatts" program, which converted the uranium from thousands of nuclear warheads for civilian use in US nuclear power plants.

At one point, the arrangement fueled 10 percent of US electricity, according to the US Department of Energy.