U.S. Indicts Multiple Companies and 165 Parties Added to the BIS Entity List for Alleged Involvement in Russian Military Procurement Network

Oct 18, 2012   

On October 3, 2012, two companies and 11 individuals of an alleged Russian military procurement network operating in the United States and Russia were indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The individuals, who work for a Texas-based export company and Russia-based procurement firm, are alleged to have illegally exported high-tech microelectronics to Russian military intelligence agencies. These high-tech microelectronics are subject to U.S. Department of Commerce dual-use export controls due to their potential use in an array of military systems such as radar and surveillance systems, detonation triggers, and weapons guidance systems.

In a coordinated effort, the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) also issued an amendment (found here) to the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) to add 165 foreign persons and companies to the Entity List which identifies specific licensing requirements independent of those required under the EAR. These 165 foreign persons and individuals were alleged to have received, transshipped or facilitated the export of microelectronics to Russia and have “been determined by the U.S. government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The indictment alleges that since October 2008, Alexander Fishenko, the president of the Russia-based procurement firm Apex Systems, LLC (“Apex”), and the Texas-based export company, Arc Electronics, Inc. (“Arc”), along with ten other defendants engaged in a “surreptitious and systematic conspiracy to obtain advanced microelectronics from the U.S. and to export those high-tech goods to Russia, while carefully evading the government licensing system set up to control such exports.”

According to the indictment, Apex functioned as a certified supplier of military equipment for the Russian government. The defendants often provided false end user information in connection with the purchase of goods, concealed their status as exporters, and falsely classified goods as having civilian end uses so as to induce manufacturers and suppliers to sell them the highly sought after microelectronics. Arcs website, for example, falsely claimed to be a traffic light manufacturer when it manufactured no goods and operated exclusively as an exporter. In another instance it is alleged that one of the defendants instructed the Russian procurement company to “make sure that” the end-use certificate indicated “fishing boats, and not fishing/anti-submarine ones” before they start working.

Each individual defendant in the case faces a maximum of 5 years incarceration for the conspiracy charges, 20 years for substantive International Emergency Economic Powers Enhancement Act (“IEEPA”) and Arms Export Control Act (“AECA”) charges, and an additional 20 years for obstruction of justice changes. In addition Fishenko faces a possible additional sentence of 20 years for money-laundering conspiracy charges and an additional 10 years for acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. Both Arc and Apex face up to $500,000 in fines for conspiracy counts and $1,000,000 in fines for the substantive IEEPA and AECA counts.

The involvement of Arc, Apex, Fishenko, and the 10 remaining individuals in the alleged Russian military procurement scheme offers proof of suspect activity that has the potential to result in significant incarceration and monetary penalties for these parties. But what about the additional 160+ individuals and companies “ which include suppliers, re-exporters, and transhippers “ which, to their detriment, may have relied on Fishenkos alleged fraud, misclassification of goods, and claims that his exports were for civilian end uses? They now find themselves on the EAR Entity List on the basis of Section 744.11 for acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. And as such, these individuals and businesses find themselves subject to additional BIS license requirements and limited ability to apply license exceptions for exports and re-exports.

While at this stage there is no way to prove for certain the level of knowledge or active involvement of these 160+ individuals and businesses, we can expect that at least some of them were not fully aware of the nature of Fishenkos business operation and intended Russian military end uses of its high-tech exports.

Exporters, re-exporters, transshippers, and all parties involved in export-related transactions must implement effective export compliance procedures to help insulate themselves from situations such as this, situations in which they can be accountable for their passive involvement in illegal export activities. An effective compliance program and inquiry into products intended end uses prior and throughout the shipment process can provide crucial insight into the legitimacy of an exporters operation.

Furthermore, as set forth in Supplement 1 and 2 of Part 766 of the EAR, an effective compliance program is entitled a high level of consideration with respect to mitigation of actual and suspected violations of the EAR. Exporters, re-exporters, and transhippers are encouraged to complete their due diligence with respect to all of their shipments by implementing proper export controls. While even the most effective export compliance plan may not identify business activity that is a result of fraud or conspiracy (such as in the alleged Russian military procurement network mentioned above), the presence of an established export compliance program may provide BIS sufficient proof of passively involved shipping companies attempts to comply with U.S. export control law. This proof may be just enough to keep unsuspecting businesses off of the Entity List and/or mitigate EAR violation penalties issued by BIS.

Below we have provided some of the guidelines that BIS takes into account when assessing the effectiveness of a companies export compliance program:

  • Whether the company has performed a meaningful risk analysis of the goods being exported and their intended end use
  • The existence of a written compliance program that is communicated to others
  • Whether senior management oversees export compliance program
  • Whether the company screens customer transactions
  • An existence of an internal system for reporting export violations
  • Whether corrective action has been taken in response to export violations

The Customs and Trade Practice at Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph, PL, has extensive experience in drafting customized export compliance manuals for a wide variety of business types and industry applications. If you want to strengthen your businesss export compliance procedures please feel free to email our offices at contact@fidjlaw.com or phone 305-350-56909.