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Ex-FBI Source Returned to US Custody   02/23 06:44


   LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A former FBI informant who claims to have links to Russian 
intelligence and is charged with lying about a multimillion-dollar bribery 
scheme involving President Joe Biden's family was again taken into custody 
Thursday in Las Vegas, two days after a judge released him.

   Alexander Smirnov, 43, was arrested Thursday morning while meeting with his 
lawyers at their offices in downtown Las Vegas. It came after prosecutors asked 
a judge in California, where the case originally was filed, to reconsider 
Smirnov's custody status while he awaits trial. No hearing was held before he 
was arrested.

   His attorneys, David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld, said in a statement 
they want an immediate hearing on his detention and will again push for his 
release. A judge in Las Vegas gave prosecutors until Friday afternoon to 
respond to Smirnov's motion for a new hearing.

   A copy of the arrest warrant that Smirnov's lawyers included as an exhibit 
in their request for the new hearing shows he was arrested on the same charges 
-- making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record.

   Prosecutors have accused Smirnov of falsely telling his FBI handler that 
executives from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma had paid President Biden 
and Hunter Biden $5 million each around 2015. The claim became central to the 
Republican impeachment inquiry of President Biden in Congress.

   Smirnov has not entered a plea to the charges, but his lawyers have said 
their client is presumed innocent and they look forward to defending him at 

   A spokesman for Justice Department special counsel David Weiss, who charged 
Smirnov, confirmed Thursday that Smirnov had been arrested again, but did not 
have additional comment. Smirnov is in the custody of U.S. Marshals in Nevada, 
said Gary Schofield, the chief marshal in Las Vegas.

   Smirnov, who has dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, was first arrested last week 
in Las Vegas, where he now lives, while returning from overseas.

   As part of their push to keep him in custody, prosecutors said Smirnov told 
investigators after his first arrest that "officials associated with Russian 
intelligence were involved in passing a story" about Hunter Biden. They said 
Smirnov's self-reported contact with Russian officials was recent and 
extensive, and said he had planned to meet with foreign intelligence contacts 
during an upcoming trip abroad.

   In his ruling Tuesday to release Smirnov on GPS monitoring, U.S. Magistrate 
Judge Daniel Albregts in Las Vegas said he was concerned about Smirnov's access 
to what prosecutors estimate is $6 million in funds, but noted that federal 
guidelines required him to fashion "the least restrictive conditions" ahead of 
his trial. Smirnov was also ordered to stay in the area and surrender his 

   "Do not make a mockery out of me," Albregts said to Smirnov, warning that 
he'd be placed back into the federal government's custody if he violated any of 
his conditions. His lawyers say he had been "fully compliant" with his release 

   Prosecutors quickly appealed to U.S. District Judge Otis Wright in Los 

   "The circumstances of the offenses charged -- that Smirnov lied to his FBI 
handler after a 10-year relationship where the two spoke nearly every day -- 
means that Smirnov cannot be trusted to provide truthful information to 
pretrial services," prosecutors wrote in court documents. "The effects of 
Smirnov's false statements and fabricated information continue to be felt to 
this day. Now the personal stakes for Smirnov are even higher. His freedom is 
on the line."

   Smirnov had been an informant for more than a decade when he made the 
explosive allegations about the Bidens in June 2020, after "expressing bias" 
about Joe Biden as a presidential candidate, prosecutors said.

   But Smirnov had only routine business dealings with Burisma starting in 
2017, according to court documents. No evidence has emerged that Joe Biden 
acted corruptly or accepted bribes in his current role or previous office as 
vice president.

   While his identity wasn't publicly known before the indictment, Smirnov's 
claims have played a major part in the Republican effort in Congress to 
investigate the president and his family, and helped spark what is now a House 
impeachment inquiry into Biden. Republicans pursuing investigations of the 
Bidens demanded the FBI release the unredacted form documenting the unverified 
allegations, though they acknowledged they couldn't confirm if they were true.

   Democrats called for an end to the probe after the Smirnov indictment came 
down last week, while Republicans distanced the inquiry from his claims and 
said they would continue to "follow the facts."

   Smirnov's lawyers say he has been living in Las Vegas for two years with his 
longtime girlfriend and requires ongoing treatment and daily medications for 
"significant medical issues related to his eyes." He lived in California for 16 
years prior to moving to Nevada.

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