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Ex-FBI informant arrested again in Las Vegas, defense lawyer says

Updated February 23, 2024 - 9:27 am

A former FBI informant accused of lying to officials about an alleged multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden and his son Hunter was arrested again in Las Vegas on Thursday morning, two days after a judge ordered him to be released from custody.

Alexander Smirnov, 43, was arrested at his attorneys’ office on a warrant issued out of California, where the case was initially filed, according to court documents filed Thursday by defense lawyers David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld. The documents filed Thursday challenged Smirnov’s detention and requested that a judge prevent him from being transferred to California.

Smirnov was initially arrested on Feb. 14 at Harry Reid International Airport after he returned to the U.S. from a trip overseas, prosecutors have said. On Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts ordered Smirnov’s release, finding that prosecutors did not prove it was necessary to hold Smirnov in custody to ensure he would appear in court.

Prosecutors have appealed the decision.

Chesnoff and Schonfeld alleged that re-arresting Smirnov, who has lived in Las Vegas for two years, was an “interference with his cherished Sixth Amendment rights,” according to a motion filed Thursday for Smirnov’s release from custody.

“We are pursuing lawful remedies to once again seek his release,” the lawyers wrote in a statement.

Albregts ruled that prosecutors have until Friday afternoon to respond to the emergency motion requesting Smirnov’s release, according to court records.

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

According to the indictment, Smirnov told the FBI the false allegations in 2020, after expressing bias against Joe Biden when he was the presumed Democrat presidential candidate.

Prosecutors have alleged that Smirnov is tied to multiple foreign intelligence agencies, including Russia. He has been labeled a flight risk by federal prosecutors and was required to give up his Israeli and U.S. passports before he was released from custody on Tuesday.

Federal prosecutor Leo Wise said during Tuesday’s hearing that Smirnov has “demonstrated he can’t be trusted” because he is accused of lying to his FBI handler after working closely with him for 10 years.

While defense attorneys have alleged that the charges against Smirnov are “politically motivated,” Wise questioned the claim during Tuesday’s hearing, telling the judge that he is also a prosecutor in a federal firearms case against Hunter Biden.

Albregts shut down attempts from Wise to mention the wider political landscape of the case in his arguments during Tuesday’s hearing.

As of Thursday evening, a hearing has not been scheduled in Nevada or California to address Smirnov’s detention status, court records show.

Several sealed entries from both Wednesday and Thursday were listed in the court docket, but no additional details about Smirnov’s return to custody were immediately available. Smirnov’s attorneys wrote that when prosecutors filed court papers on Wednesday requesting a new detention hearing, they did not reference the unserved arrest warrant in California.

“It should further be noted that the fact that the Defendant was attending a legal consultation meeting at his attorneys’ office contradicts the notion that he is a risk of flight,” according to Thursday’s motion from Chesnoff and Schonfeld.

Las Vegas Review-Journal part-time intern Peter S. Levitt also is employed by the law firm that represents Smirnov. He was not involved in the reporting of this story.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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