A group of Russian and Venezuelan nationals have been charged by U.S. authorities for their roles in a scheme to circumvent Western sanctions and launder money on a global scale. They have been accused of obtaining military technologies from American companies, smuggling oil, and disguising money flows for Russian oligarchs through shell companies and crypto transactions.
Russians Arrested in Europe Face Extradition to US on Allegations of Shipping Oil, Dual-Use Technology in Violation of Sanctions
Five Russian citizens and two Venezuelans have been charged for violations related to the purchase of U.S.-made military and dual-use equipment on behalf of Russian buyers and shipping Venezuelan oil in breach of restrictions. Federal prosecutors say some of the electronic components ended up in Russian weapon systems seized on the battlefield in Ukraine.
On Wednesday, a 12-count indictment was presented in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, the U.S. Department of Justice announced. The five Russians facing various charges of global procurement and money laundering are Yury Orekhov, Artem Uss, Svetlana Kuzurgasheva, also known as ‘Lana Neumann,’ Timofey Telegin, and Sergey Tulyakov.
The United States currently seeks the extradition of Orekhov and Uss, who were arrested in Germany and Italy respectively. Venezuelan nationals Juan Fernando Serrano Ponce (‘Juanfe Serrano’) and Juan Carlos Soto were also charged. The two brokered illicit oil deals for the Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) as part of the unraveled scheme. Elaborating on the charges, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace stated:
As alleged, the defendants were criminal enablers for oligarchs, orchestrating a complex scheme to unlawfully obtain U.S. military technology and Venezuelan sanctioned oil through a myriad of transactions involving shell companies and cryptocurrency.
“We will continue to enforce the unprecedented export controls implemented in response to Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine and the Office of Export Enforcement intends to pursue these violators wherever they may be worldwide,” emphasized Jonathan Carson, special agent-in-charge at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement.
U.S. officials claim the defendants used a German-registered entity to carry out the shipments. Yury Orekhov served as the part owner and chief executive of the Hamburg-based company Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH (NDA), the main activity of which was industrial equipment and commodity trading.
NDA served as a front company through which the Russians sourced and acquired sensitive technologies such as microprocessors used in fighter aircraft, missile systems, smart munitions, and radar systems. The items were then shipped to end users in the Russian Federation, including sanctioned companies working with Russia’s defense industry.
Using the same entity, Orekhov and Uss also smuggled hundreds of millions of barrels of oil from Venezuela for Russian and Chinese clients. Among them, the aluminum company of a Russian oligarch under sanctions and a Beijing-based oil and gas conglomerate, said to be the world’s largest.
The deals between PDVSA and NDA were brokered by the Venezuelans and transactions worth millions of U.S. dollars were routed through a number of shell companies and bank accounts. The participants in the scheme also employed cash drops through couriers in Russia and Latin America and crypto transfers to conduct the transactions and launder the proceeds, the DOJ alleged. If convicted, the defendants face up to 30 years’ imprisonment, the announcement noted.
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