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New York businessman pleads guilty to attempting to sell drone parts to Russia despite sanctions

by Martin Fornusek May 1, 2024 8:48 AM 2 min read
Illustrative purposes only: Officers from Kazakhstan look at the Orlan-30 multifunctional drone system with UAVs during the International Military Technical Forum 'Army 2022', on Aug. 15, 2022, in Kubinka, outside of Moscow, Russia. (Contributor/Getty Images)
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A New York businessman pleaded guilty to attempting to sell more than $250,000 worth of sensitive dual-use goods to sanctioned Russian entities, the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Public Affairs said on April 30.

Despite extensive Western sanctions aimed at stifling Russia's arms production, Moscow continues to obtain sensitive dual-use goods through third-party countries, smuggling, and other illicit schemes.

Nikolay Grigorev, a 36-year-old Brooklyn resident, pleaded guilty to shipping components to companies affiliated with the Russian military. Co-defendants Nikita Arkhipov and Artem Oloviannikov remain at large, the statement read.

"In pleading guilty today, the defendant admitted he conspired to smuggle over $250,000 worth of sensitive American drone technology to Russian companies fueling (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's unlawful war against Ukraine," said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

"Swift action by agents and prosecutors unraveled a web of fake orders and wire transfers to prevent over 11,500 electronic components from making their way to the Russian war machine."

According to the indictment, Grigorev used a Brooklyn-based entity, Quality Life Cue LLC (QLC), to facilitate the scheme. Through QLC, the three defendants procured components for Russia-based companies – namely the sanctioned SMT-iLogic – involved in the production of drones for the war effort in Ukraine, according to U.S. authorities.

Between Oct. 22, 2021, and Feb. 22, 2022, Grigorev's accounts allegedly received payments from SMT-iLogic totaling around $272,830. The suspects' email communication reveals intent to circumvent U.S. sanctions, for example, through front companies in third countries, like Kazakhstan.

A search of Grigorev's residence in June 2023 uncovered over 11,500 electronic components awaiting illegal export to Russia. Grigorev was arrested on Nov. 1, 2023, and faces up to five years in prison.

The U.S. government imposed fresh sanctions against SMT-iLogic last September for its role in supplying drone technology components used in Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Opinion: A look at the drone arsenal Russia uses against Ukraine
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