U.S. authorities have charged a group of Russian- and Venezuelan citizens with their involvement in an international scheme to bypass Western sanctions and launder money. The group was accused of procuring military technology from American companies, as well as smuggling crude oil and facilitating money transfers to Russian oligarchs via shell companies and crypto transactions.
Russians in Europe Arrest for Shipping Oil and Dual-Use Technology Violations of Sanctions
Two Venezuelans and five Russian citizens were charged with violations in connection to U.S. military equipment and dual-use items purchased for Russian buyers. They also received Venezuelan oil without restrictions. Federal prosecutors allege that electronic components were used in Russian-made weapon systems in Ukraine.
A 12-count indictment against the five Russians was filed Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court, New York. This was announced by U.S. Department of Justice. 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 is currently seeking the extradition Orekhov (‘Juanfe Serrano’) and Uss from Germany, where they were respectively arrested. Venezuelan nationals Juan Fernando Serrano Ponce (‘Juanfe Serrano’) and Juan Carlos Soto were also charged. As part of the scheme, the two were accused in arranging illicit oil contracts for Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), a Venezuelan state-owned petroleum company. Breon Peace, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District in New York, elaborated on the accusations:
According to the allegations, defendants were criminal enablers of oligarchs. Through a series of transactions involving cryptocurrency and shell companies, they orchestrated a complex scheme for illegally obtaining U.S. military tech and Venezuelan sanctioned oils.
“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. authorities claim that the defendants used German-registered entities to transport the goods. Yury Orekhov was part owner of Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH GmbH (NDA) in Hamburg, whose main activities were commodity and industrial equipment trading.
NDA was used as a cover company by the Russians to source and acquire sensitive technology such as smart munitions and microprocessors for fighter planes, radar systems and missile systems. The items were then shipped to end users in the Russian Federation, including sanctioned companies working with Russia’s defense industry.
Orekhov and Uss also managed to illegally smuggle oil from Venezuela worth hundreds of million dollars for their Chinese and Russian 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.
Venezuelans brokered the deals between PDVSA & NDA. Millions of dollars worth of transactions were routed through various shell companies and bank accounts. DOJ claimed that the participants also used cash transfers through crypto transfer to transact and launder proceeds. If convicted, the defendants face up to 30 years’ imprisonment, the announcement noted.
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