Rudy Giuliani’s cartoonishly inept dirt-digging operation in Ukraine would not have been possible without Dmitry Firtash, the shady Ukrainian natural gas magnate who has spent at least $1 million investigating the Biden family.
Firtash has found himself at the heart of a sprawling international corruption investigation before. In 2006, he flew to India, where, according to American authorities, he offered officials an $18.5 million bribe to acquire the mining rights for minerals integral to the production of Boeing 787 airplanes. That year, FBI officials began investigating Firtash; they knew then that he had ties to some of Eastern Europe’s most notorious mobsters, as well as a direct line to Moscow. Eight years later, Austrian authorities apprehended him outside his plush offices in Vienna. Firtash quickly made bail—an all-time Austrian record, $174 million, to be exact—and has been living comfortably in Vienna ever since, his fortune growing by the year.
President Trump’s spin doctors have said that Firtash was acting alone when he opened his investigation into Hunter Biden—he has a long-standing grudge against Joe Biden, whose push for reforms in the Ukrainian gas industry cost him hundreds of millions. But Firtash appears to have been following Trump’s lead. As early as March, the president had made it clear that he would reward whoever delivered him Hunter Biden’s head on a silver platter. Firtash, who was still fighting the Justice Department’s attempts to haul him back to the States for a trial, was listening. In July, he fired Hillary Clinton’s close friend, Lanny Davis, as his personal lawyer and replaced him with Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, Trump loyalists who had also worked for Giuliani. It was a shrewd calculation, entirely of a piece with the blend of politics, business, and crime that Firtash used to amass a fortune after the fall of the Soviet Union.
In 2008, when he was thinking of buying Chicago’s Drake Hotel, Firtash told Time, “America is far away, it’s not ours.” But now, with a corrupt president in the White House, Firtash clearly feels America is closer than it’s even been before.