Department of Justice Charges Russians, Italians With Conspiring to Evade Sanctions

December 3, 2019 Updated: December 3, 2019

A number of companies and individuals from different countries have been charged in a conspiracy to evade international trade sanctions, according to a newly unsealed superseding indictment.

Two Russian nationals, two Italian nationals, and a U.S. citizen were charged with violating and conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 (ECRA), as well as conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.

A federal grand jury in Savannah, Georgia, returned the indictment in October. It charged Oleg Vladislavovich Nikitin and his Russian based company KS Engineering, as well as employee Anton Cheremukhin with violating and conspiring to violate IEEPA and ECRA. It also charges Gabriele Villone, his Italian-based company GVA International Oil and Gas Services, and employee Bruno Caparini with the same offenses.

In addition, defendants Dali Bagrou and Bagrou’s U.S.-based company World Mining and Oil Supply (WMO) are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

All three defendants, Nikitin, Villone, and Bagrou were arrested in Savannah, Georgia, while attempting to complete the illegal transactions, according to a release by the Department of Justice. The defendants are currently awaiting trial.

An unnamed Russian government-controlled business contracted with Nikitin and his business to purchase a Vectra 40G power turbine from a U.S.-based manufacturer for about $17.3 million.

According to the indictment, there was evidence the intent of the Russian government-controlled company was to use the Vectra on a Russian Arctic deepwater (greater than 500 feet) drilling platform. The U.S. Department of Commerce, for reasons of national security, blocks “any unlicensed shipment or transfer of the Vectra to the Russian company for that purpose,” according to the indictment.

“In an attempt to evade U.S. export laws, the indictment alleges that Nikitin, Cheremukhin, and KSE hired Villone, Caparini, and GVA to obtain the Vectra on their behalf. Villone, Caprini, and GVA then employed the services of Bagrou and WMO to procure the Vectra from a U.S.-based manufacturer and to have the Vectra shipped overseas,” the DOJ release stated.

The individuals all conspired together to conceal the true end user of the Vectra from both the U.S. manufacturer and the U.S. government via the use of false documents that claimed the Vectra would be used solely by a U.S. company in Atlanta.

Nikitin, Cheremukhin, Villone, and Caparini face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, as well as a $1 million fine, for the charge of violating IEEPA/ECRA. They also face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to violate the acts.

The defendants also face a maximum of 20 years in prison and $500,000 fine “on the charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments,” according to the DOJ.

“The defendants tried to defraud the United States by evading sanctions put in place to keep U.S. goods out of the hands of some of the world’s most dangerous actors,” U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine for the Southern District of Georgia said in a statement.

“We will continue to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who threaten our national security.”

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