4 Russians charged with exporting US military technology ahead of Ukraine invasion

Thursday, 20 October 2022 (12:53 IST)
US federal prosecutors charged five Russians and two Venezuelans over their alleged roles in a complex scheme to procure American dual-use and military technology ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, officials said on Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors in New York accused some of the defendants of using a German company to transport semiconductors, radars and satellites that could be used in fighter aircraft, missile systems, smart munitions, radar, satellites and other space-based military applications.

Some of the equipment was recovered on battlefields in Ukraine, the US Justice Department said.

"Today we announce the dismantling of a sophisticated network consisting of at least five Russian nationals and two Venezuelan nationals, each of whom are directly linked to corrupt state-owned enterprises, who knowingly sought to conceal the theft of US military technology and profit off black market oil," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll said in on Wednesday.

Two of the five Russian nationals charged, Yury Orekhov and Artem Uss, have been arrested in Germany and Italy, respectively. Orekhov was chief executive officer and managing director of Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau (NDA GmbH), a privately held industrial equipment and commodity trading company located in Hamburg, Germany. Uss was the other owner of the German company and is the son of the governor of Russia's Krasnoyarsk Krai region.

Banks, crypto and oil

The scheme allegedly involved laundering money via cryptocurrency, bulk cash drops, and financial institutions in what the Justice Department called "high risk" jurisdictions.

Regarding one money transfer, Orekhov allegedly told an associate: "There were no worries ... this is the shittiest bank in the Emirates ... they pay to everything."

The same network was also allegedly used to ship oil from Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA — which was sanctioned by the US in 2019 — to buyers in Russia and China.

Potential nuclear proliferation tool seized

In a separate case also announced on Wednesday, US federal prosecutors in the US state of Connecticut charged another four people with attempting to export a computer-controlled grinding machine, or jig grinder, to Russia. Authorities intercepted the shipment in Riga.

Such a machine can be used in nuclear proliferation and defense programs.

The four individuals were all citizens of Latvia or Ukraine and were arrested in their home countries.

"As I have said, our investigators and prosecutors will be relentless in their efforts to identify, locate, and bring to justice those whose illegal acts undermine the rule of law and enable the Russian regime to continue its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine," US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of 30 years imprisonment.

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