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

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Five Russian nationals and two oil traders for Venezuela were charged this week in a wide-ranging scheme to obtain military equipment from the United States and smuggle Venezuelan oil to Russia and China, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday in federal court. 

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

"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," Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement on Wednesday. 

"Their efforts undermined security, economic stability and rule of law around the world." 

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

Ukrainian servicemen are seen next to a destroyed armored vehicle, which they said belongs to the Russian army, outside Kharkiv, Ukraine Feb. 24, 2022.  (REUTERS/Maksim Levin / Reuters Photos)

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

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Some of the electronics smuggled through the scheme have been found in Russian weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine, according to the indictment. 

"This network schemed to procure sophisticated technology in direct support of a floundering Russian Federation military industrial complex," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said in a statement. 

A general view of the Amuay refinery complex which belongs to the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA in Punto Fijo, Venezuela. (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo / Reuters Photos)

The defendants also allegedly smuggled hundreds of millions of barrels of Venezuelan oil to purchasers in Russia and China. 

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Two oil traders, Juan Fernando Serrano Ponce and Juan Carlos Soto, brokered deals worth millions of dollars between Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. and NDA GmbH. 

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

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