MOSCOW, May 20 (RIA Novosti) – A retired US diplomat and expert on the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was banned from entering Russia earlier this month, the New York Times said on Sunday.
Moscow-based Thomas Firestone, who works for Baker & McKenzie law firm, was declared persona non grata when returning to Russia from a trip abroad on May 5, the report said.
No official explanation for the incident was available. Baker & McKenzie confirmed the expulsion in a statement cited by the New York Times, which did not name the reasons for Firestone’s blacklisting. The press office of the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said by telephone Monday that it would not currently comment on the matter.
The Russian intelligence services unsuccessfully tried to recruit Firestone in March, the New York Times said, citing an unnamed source familiar with the case. No independent confirmation of the report was available.
Russia and the United States are currently in the middle of another spy row over Ryan Fogle, an official at the US Embassy in Moscow who allegedly tried to recruit an unnamed Russian security service officer for the CIA last week.
The Russian Federal Security Service said Fogle’s detention and expulsion was made into a show to punish the CIA for ignoring Russia’s repeated warnings to stop recruiting activity.
Firestone spent two terms as resident legal adviser at the US Embassy in Moscow until joining Baker & McKenzie in 2012. He is an expert on Russian business practices, including illegal activity. In 2010, Russia's Federal Anti-Monopoly Service gave him an award for his contribution to “combating cartels and unfair competition.”
The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act punishes companies working in the United States for paying bribes abroad. High-profile examples in Russia included drug makers Pfitzer and Eli Lilly and automotive concern Daimler, which have been fined tens of millions of dollars in recent years for bribing Russian officials and agencies. No one was persecuted in Russia over those cases.
(Updated with comment from the Russian Foreign Ministry.)