Crime

Ex-Russian Olympics official who drew wrath of Putin arrested by ICE in South Florida

A former Russian Olympic official once publicly ridiculed by President Vladimir Putin was arrested Tuesday morning by U.S. immigration agents at his home in Sunny Isles Beach.

Agents detained Akhmed Bilalov, a one-time deputy head of the Russian Olympic Committee who fled the country after Putin chastised him for construction delays and spiraling costs before the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Bilalov, in a 2013 interview with The Guardian, claimed he’d been poisoned with mercury while in Russia, suggesting he had been targeted by government agents, who have over the years been accused of killing Putin critics and opponents with poisons or staged accidents.

Sources confirmed that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, took Bilalov into custody early Tuesday at a condo on the 17000 block of Collins Avenue.

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Kremlin aide Ahkmed Bilalov speaks with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 26, 2011. In June 2010, Akhmed Bilalov became the Chairman of the Council of Experts attached to Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development, to develop the concept of a tourist cluster known as Vysota 5642 in the North Caucasus. Michel Euler ASSOCIATED PRESS

Various news reports over the years have called Bilalov a target of a criminal embezzlement probe in Russia. It was unclear Tuesday if Russia was seeking his extradition from the United States or if Bilalov was slated for deportation for some other violation.

An ICE spokeswoman in Miami said Wednesday morning that Bilalov, 48, was in the United States illegally. He entered the United States in May 2016, and was supposed to have left the country, said spokeswoman Tamara Spicer.

“He is currently in ICE custody, pending removal proceedings,” she said in the statement.

The U.S. Department of Justice has an arm that deals with INTERPOL, which distributes notices from countries regarding international fugitives. A spokeswoman for INTERPOL Washington would not say if the department had received notice from Russia that Bilalov is a fugitive.

“Unfortunately, INTERPOL Washington does not have any information to share with regard to Mr. Bilalov,” spokeswoman Vanessa Allen said in a statement to the Miami Herald on Tuesday.

Bilalov had been living with his wife and newborn child at the condo in Sunny Isles Beach. His lawyer did not return a phone call requesting comment.

He was formerly the vice president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, but was sacked by Vladimir Putin after the Russian leader toured Sochi the year before the Games. The lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics was marked by construction delays, ballooning costs and allegations of government corruption. Putin sarcastically chided Bilalov on live Russian TV for mushrooming costs of a ski-jump venue. Bilalov fled the country soon afterward.

Bilalov, a native of the republic of Dagestan, was also an oil tycoon in Russia. While in exile in the United States, he sued a former business associate over a bad business deal in Russia, a suit that was dismissed by the New York Supreme Court earlier this year.

This article was updated Wednesday to include a statement from an ICE spokeswoman.

David Ovalle covers crime and courts in Miami. A native of San Diego, he graduated from the University of Southern California and joined the Herald in 2002 as a sports reporter.
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