Five Russians charged in global scheme to smuggle equipment from US for Russia’s military

Five Russian nationals and two oil traders serving Venezuela were indicted this week in a sweeping plot to procure military equipment from the United States and smuggle Venezuelan oil to Russia and China, according to an indictment released in federal court on Wednesday.

The defendants allegedly used Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH (NDA GmbH) as a front company to buy advanced semiconductors and microprocessors used in various Russian weapons, including fighter jets, missile systems and ammunition.

“As alleged, the defendants were criminal accomplices to oligarchs who orchestrated a complex scheme to illegitimately obtain U.S. military technology and Venezuelan-sanctioned oil through a variety of shell company and cryptocurrency transactions,” said Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the East District of New York said in a statement on Wednesday.

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“Your efforts have undermined security, economic stability and the rule of law around the world.”

Russian military

Russian soldiers ride on a truck to the Perekop checkpoint on the Ukrainian border on February 24. (Sergei Malgavko\TASS via Getty Images/Getty Images)

One of the defendants, 42-year-old Yury Orekhov, the CEO of NDA GmbH, is accused of traveling to the US in 2019 to source parts that can be used in Russian fighter jets.

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Some of the electronics smuggled through the system were found in Russian weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine, according to the indictment.

“This network planned to procure sophisticated technology in direct support of a faltering Russian Federation military-industrial complex,” Michael J. Driscoll, the FBI’s assistant director-in-charge, said in a statement.

The defendants are also said to have smuggled hundreds of millions of barrels of Venezuelan oil to buyers in Russia and China.

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Two oil traders, Juan Fernando Serrano Ponce and Juan Carlos Soto, brokered multimillion-dollar deals between Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA and NDA GmbH.

The defendants used a complex web of shell companies, forged documents and cryptocurrencies to route transactions through US financial institutions, according to the indictment.

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