GOP-led congressional committees are investigating a top Russian nuclear executive who was granted a U.S. visa by the Obama administration after the FBI had already gathered substantial evidence he was involved in a racketeering scheme, The Hill reports.
The records show TENEX executive Vadim Mikerin was engaged in illegal activities as early as the fall of 2009, yet he was granted an L1 temporary work visa to enter the country by the Obama administration when he arrived in December 2011.
Milkerin’s visa was renewed in August 2014, just months before he was arrested and charged with extortion, the records show. The lengthy delay is now being investigated by multiple GOP-led congressional committees, one of which sent a letter Tuesday to the State Department and Homeland Security Department demanding answers, The Hill writes.
“It is concerning that a suspected criminal was able to apply for and renew a work visa while being under FBI investigation,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley noted.
According to The Hill, officials familiar with law enforcement issues involving visas said it was possible the FBI evidence on Mikerin was not flagged in databases checked by State and Homeland before he was granted entry.
Another possibility is that the FBI asked the agencies to allow Mikerin to enter the country so they could monitor his activities as part of a larger counterintelligence operation and detect other possible conspirators, The Hill adds.
The five-year delay between the time when the FBI first detected illegal conduct by Mikerin in 2009 and when the Justice Department finally brought charges in 2014 has garnered new attention in recent weeks after The Hill reported details on the bribery case.
During the five-year delay, the Obama administration approved the controversial sale of uranium assets to Mikerin’s parent company Rosatom, and also allowed billions in new contracts to be signed between TENEX and American utilities. Republican lawmakers now want to know whether the criminal scheme should have been grounds to oppose those deals, The Hill reports.
Mikerin was a director of TENEX in Russia, and was dispatched to the United States to help the Russian nuclear giant set up and run a new American subsidiary called TENAM designed to win new commercial business with American utilities, court records show, the news outlet notes.