NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Four European nationals have been indicted of violating U.S. export laws by trying to smuggle a piece of equipment from Connecticut to Russia that could potentially be used in nuclear programs, according to an announcement Wednesday from the U.S. States Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery.
“The danger created by such conduct is profound,” Avery said in the written announcement. ” I thank HSI, the Department of Commerce and the FBI, and our partners in Latvia and Estonia, who thwarted this alleged scheme and are working to bring these defendants to justice in a U.S. court of law.”
Eriks Mamonovs, 33, and 46-year-old Vadims Ananics, who are both Latvian citizens, conspired with 37-year-old Stanislav Romanyuk, a Ukrainian citizen and resident of Estonia, and 46-year-old Janis Uzbalis, of Latvia, to smuggle a jig grinder that was made in Connecticut to Russia, according to the announcement. The scheme also included individuals in Russia, who were not named by officials.
The jig grinder does not require a license to be exported to European Union countries, but it does need one to be sent to Russia “because of its potential application in nuclear proliferation and defense programs,” according to the announcement.
“The power and precision of American technology must not be put to use by the Kremlin’s war machine,” Andrew Adams, director of Task Force KleptoCapture, said in the written announcement. “Enforcement against efforts to illegally export and reexport controlled U.S. technology is critical in ensuring that superior American technology isn’t exploited by Russia in this unjust war. The arrests in Latvia demonstrate that smugglers and fraudsters will be apprehended and prosecuted notwithstanding the sophistication of evasion networks operating far from U.S. shores.”
The scheme started in 2018 when Mamonovs and Ananics’ company, CNC Weld, worked with Romanyuk’s company BY Trade OU, according to the announcement.
U.S. officials intercepted the equipment in Latvia before it was shipped to Russia.
Ananics, Mamonovs, and Uzbalis were arrested Tuesday in Latvia. Romanyuk was arrested on June 13 in Estonia. The U.S. is seeking extradition.
If convicted, they face a sentence of up to five years for conspiracy, up to 20 years for violating the Export Control Reform Act, up to 10 years for smuggling, and up to 20 years for money laundering charges.