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
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
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.