Feds Charge Russian, Chinese Nationals With Illegal ExportsEnforcement Actions Stem From Disruptive Technology Task Force
U.S. federal prosecutors announced a slew of indictments and arrests in cases involving attempts by foreign nationals to illegally export technology into Russia, China and Iran.
The announcement comes months after the Biden administration vowed to crack down on export violations, and a Department of Justice official announced the creation of the Disruptive Technology Strike Force while decrying autocracies that "seek tactical advantage through the acquisition, use, and abuse of America's most innovative technology" (see: US Takes Aim at Illicit Advanced Technology Reaching China).
One case involves a Greek national accused of smuggling military and dual-use technology to Russia on behalf of a wholesale machinery company acting as a procurement front for Moscow intelligence services. French police arrested the man, Nikolaos Bogonikolos, 59, on May 9 at the behest of U.S. authorities.
The indictment says Bogonikolos exported tactical military antennae, lasers intended to aid the development of "prototype quantum cryptographic complex information security equipment" as well as pressure sensors and other electronics.
The Department of Treasury in March 2022 sanctioned the Russian company Serniya Engineering. It also sanctioned the Russian wholesale machinery company Sertal, which prosecutors say operated within the Serniya Network.
"We are committed to doing all we can to prevent these advanced tools from falling into the hands of foreign adversaries who wield them in ways that threaten, not only our nation's security, but democratic values everywhere," said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, the head of the DOJ's National Security Division, during a press conference.
Another case concerning the disruption of attempted Russian procurement of export-controlled items involved two Russian nationals living in the U.S. Federal agents arrested Oleg Patsulya and Vasilii Besedin on May 11 in Arizona for allegedly conspiring to send aircraft parts to Russia. They specifically conspired to export airplane braking systems to two Russian airliners. Federal agents seized at least one of the shipments, leading Besedin to contact the federal government in a bid to have the shipment released. The contact led to a meeting during which he and Patsulya told an agent from the Bureau of Industry and Security that the ultimate customers of the breaking systems were Turkish airlines. The agent arrested them during the meeting.
Prosecutors also indicted Chinese national Xiangjiang Qiao for allegedly conspiring to provide the Iranian government with isostatic graphite, a material used in the production of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Qiao is at large in China.
Another target of the crackdown also fled to China. Weibao Wang, 35, is accused of downloading Apple trade secrets on autonomous systems, including self-driving cars. Apple employed Wang from March 2016 through April 2018. Company security staff detected that shortly before resigning, he had accessed large amounts of data, causing law enforcement to obtain a warrant to search his residence. Police found "large quantities" of Apple data on his personal desktop and hard drive, including the autonomy project source code.
Wang boarded a flight to China departing the same day law enforcement executed the warrant. Before he resigned from Apple, Wang accepted a job from a Chinese company also developing autonomous driving technology.