The US judiciary has dismantled two illegal networks that are said to have supplied Russia with military technology for the war against Ukraine despite the sanctions in force. A total of eleven suspects and several companies were charged in two separate criminal proceedings, the Ministry of Justice announced late Wednesday evening (local time).
In the first case, for which prosecutors in New York are responsible, five Russians are accused, among others. Among them is Yuri Orechow, the managing director of a company for industrial plants based in Hamburg. At the request of the United States, he was arrested in Germany and a partner in Italy. There was initially no comment from the company. The Italian authorities initially did not comment on request.
Prosecutor Breon Peace described the accused as "criminal agents of oligarchs". Prosecution would continue for those who fueled Russia's brutal war in Ukraine, circumvented sanctions and engaged in money laundering. The deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said it had succeeded in "disrupting a sophisticated network".
The accused are accused, among other things, of procuring semiconductors and microprocessors from the USA that are used in Russia, for example in combat aircraft, radar equipment, rocket systems or satellites. Some of the electronic components were found in Russian weapons platforms seized on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Hundreds of millions of barrels of oil are said to have been smuggled from Venezuela to Russian and Chinese customers via the company in Hamburg. Two of the accused are Venezuelan oil traders who had handled the multi-million dollar deal between Venezuela's state-owned oil company and the Hamburg-based company. According to prosecutors, they used a complex system of front companies and bank accounts to cover up the transactions.
Cash couriers and cryptocurrency transfers in Russia and Latin America were used to launder the proceeds, the indictment said. In addition, shipping documents were forged. In order to disguise the origin of the oil, the supertankers used were made to switch off their navigation systems.
The US Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on Orekhov and two of his companies. Any assets in the US will be frozen. Doing business with them will be prohibited for US citizens, it said.
Three Latvians and one Ukrainian were arrested in connection with the second network. They are accused of attempting to smuggle into Russia a high-precision grinding machine that could also be used in nuclear weapons and defense programs. The machine was intercepted in Riga in time. Because it was made in Connecticut, the local Attorney's Office has jurisdiction over the case.
"Our investigators and prosecutors will be relentless in their efforts to identify, track down and bring to justice those whose illegal actions undermine the rule of law and allow the Russian regime to continue its baseless invasion of Ukraine," the US Attorney General said Merrick Garland.