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Ex-FBI source accused of lying about Bidens is returned to US custody

LAS VEGAS — 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, his attorneys said.

Alexander Smirnov was arrested during a meeting Thursday morning at his lawyers’ law offices in downtown Las Vegas. The arrest came after prosecutors appealed the judge’s ruling allowing 43-year-old Smirnov, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, to be released with a GPS monitor ahead of trial. He is charged with making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record.

Attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld said in a statement that they have requested an immediate hearing on his detention and will again push for his release. They said Smirnov was taken into custody on a warrant issued in California for the same charges.

The case against Smirnov was originally filed in California, where he used to live. Several sealed entries were listed in the court docket, but no additional details about his return to custody were immediately available.

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

Smirnov was first arrested last week in Las Vegas, where he now lives, while returning from overseas.

Prosecutors say Smirnov falsely told his FBI handler that executives from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma 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 trial.

As part of their push to keep him in custody, prosecutors said Smirnov told investigators after his arrest last week 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.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts on Tuesday had said he was concerned about Smirnov’s access to money prosecutors estimated at $6 million but noted that federal guidelines required him to fashion “the least restrictive conditions” ahead of trial. Smirnov was also ordered to stay in the area and surrender his passports.

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