Seven accused of smuggling US military technology into Moscow • The Register

The U.S. Department of Justice today opened a 16-count indictment alleging five Russians, one American citizen and one lawful permanent resident of the United States of smuggling export-controlled electronics and military ammunition out of the United States for the Russian government.

Among the items smuggled out of America were semiconductors used in nuclear and hypersonic weapons and even (gasp!) quantum computers, the DoJ said.

Ammunition for sniper rifles was among the items of equipment allegedly smuggled out.

Three of the seven accused are in custody. Alexey Brayman, the lawful permanent resident of the United States; and Vadim Yermolenko, the US citizen, were both arrested in the United States. Vadim Konoshchenok, suspected of being a colonel in Russia’s FSB, was arrested in Estonia on December 6 and is awaiting extradition to the US.

If convicted, the accused face a maximum of 30 years in prison.

Russian citizens Yevgeniy Grinin, Aleksey Ippolitov, Boris Livshits and Svetlana Skvortsova remain at large. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the arrests were enough to disrupt the procurement network established between Brayman, Yermolenko and the pair’s Russian contacts.

How to evade US export sanctions, at least for a while

According to prosecutors, two Moscow-based companies were involved in the plan: Serbia Engineering and Sertal LLC, both of which the DoJ has accused of operating under the direction of Russian intelligence agencies.

In particular, Sertal was “approved to carry out highly sensitive and classified procurement activities” for Russian secret services, according to the indictment.

According to the DoJ, both firms exist “to procure advanced electronics and sophisticated test equipment for Russia’s military-industrial complex and research and development sector.” That is, the companies would acquire American technology on Moscow’s orders and direct this equipment to Russia, they say.

The companies also allegedly operated a vast network of shell companies and bank accounts to hide Kremlin involvement in their acquisitions, which apparently included Brayman and Yermolenko.

“The industries that could support these illicit transfers — quantum computing, hypersonic weapons — pose a grave threat in the hands of our adversaries,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

According to the FBI, Ippolitov received requests for hardware from Russia, which were forwarded to Grinin and Skvortsova in Sertal. The pair at Sertal secured funding and planned shipping routes, while Livshits was tasked with sourcing items from US companies through a collection of shell companies registered in the New York City area, sources said.

Brayman and Yermolenko did the US-based legwork, fabricating documents and invoices, packaging items and shipping them to intermediate destinations where they would then be smuggled into Russia, sources say.

Konoshchenok, the suspected FSB colonel, was based in Estonia and was stopped more than once at the Estonian-Russian border while smuggling items into Russia. Among the items Konoshchenok was known to have transported were “35 different types of semiconductors and other electronic components” that corresponded to an order of livshits, the DoJ said.

“Our office will not rest in its vigorous prosecution of individuals who are unlawfully acquiring US technology to further Russia’s brutal war,” said Breon Peace, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. ®

https://www.theregister.com/2022/12/14/us_doj_disrupts_russian_smuggling/ Seven accused of smuggling US military technology into Moscow • The Register

Rick Schindler

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