Italian police have arrested a Russian businessman who they believed played a role in the flight of a compatriot wanted in connection with an alleged Venezuelan oil smuggling ring.

Russian Artem Uss fled his home on the outskirts of Milan in March 2023 after an Italian court ruled that he should be sent to stand trial in the US for allegedly exporting sanctioned oil from state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA).

Uss cut off an electronic tag with a set of bolt cutters supplied by a member of a Serbian crime group, according to US court documents. He was then taken through the Balkans using a number of cars before catching a flight from Serbia to Moscow, prosecutors claim.

Milan prosecutors said on Friday they had arrested a 54-year-old Russian entrepreneur living in Switzerland in connection with the flight of Uss. This was the latest in a string of arrests linked to the case.

He was named by Italian media as Dmitry Chirakadze, who was said to have been arrested at Rome airport after flying in from Sardinia where he owns a luxury resort.

US prosecutors claimed that Uss was a key player in a smuggling group that forged shipping documents and organised shipments of crude oil disguised as rice or beans.

Prosecutors said the men used a Vietnamese tanker that switched off its AIS tracker to disguise the source of its cargo after the US imposed sanctions on PDVSA in 2019.

Some of the oil was allegedly supplied to Rusal, the aluminium company once controlled by sanctioned oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Uss was arrested in Italy in October 2022 and held under house arrest. An alleged accomplice was detained in Germany.

Uss, the son of a powerful Russian politician allied to President Vladimir Putin, fled days after an Italian court ruled on his extradition. He later confirmed he was in Russia and thanked “strong and reliable people” for helping him.

Italian prosecutors have identified a group involved in his escape with some in custody in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.

They include a Bosnian national, Vladimir Jovancic, who the US claim was pictured leaving his home with Uss. Jovancic has been arrested in Croatia and faces extradition to the US.

In December, the US in December offered a $7m reward for information leading to the arrest of Uss.