June 6, 2023

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced arrests and criminal charges in five cases related to sanctions evasion and technological espionage efforts linked to Russia, China and Iran.

Two Russian nationals were taken into custody last week on charges of sending aircraft parts to Russia in violation of sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine. In another case, a former Apple engineer is accused of stealing the company’s autonomous vehicle technology to supply it to a Chinese competitor.

The announcements were the work of a recently created “technology strike force,” which aims to protect critical U.S. technology or data from being stolen by hostile nations. The strike force was created in February and brings together agents from the Departments of Commerce and Justice, as well as the FBI and local law firms.

Federal agents are working to trace the global movement of US goods and data, as well as the funds used to pay for it. The effort seeks to target the global networks that channel goods and technology through opaque jurisdictions and intermediaries to try to circumvent sanctions and technological restrictions imposed by the United States.

In another case revealed on Tuesday, a California-based engineer is accused of stealing the source code of advanced machines that can be used to make parts for military submarines and aircraft to sell to various Chinese companies.

Two other cases were announced, including charges against China-based agents accused of trying to send materials used in weapons of mass destruction to Iran, according to US officials, and charges related to the alleged supply of advanced technology to Russia which could be reused. by the Russian army.

Matthew G. Olsen, the assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice’s national security division, told reporters that the cases showed the U.S. government’s ability to “accelerate investigations and strengthen our collective resources to defend against these threats.” to defend”.

“Foreign states are working hard to acquire our most sensitive technologies,” said Matthew Axelrod, the deputy secretary for export enforcement in the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security. “We’re working even harder to stop them.”

Oleg Patsulya and Vasilii Besedin, the two Russian nationals arrested last week on suspicion of attempting to buy millions of dollars worth of banned parts for Russian airlines, were charged with conspiracy to violate the Export Control Reform Act and conspiracy to commit international money laundering. commit money. If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison for each charge.

The Commerce Department on Tuesday issued a temporary refusal order against the men, barring them from transacting US products for 180 days.

The order also applies to a forwarding agent in the Maldives that the men had used to transport shipments of banned products to Russia, as well as to a Russian airline, Smartavia, which attempted to purchase these products.

Federal officials on Thursday seized luxury goods purchased with the proceeds of their plan, a US official said.