The Biden administration on Tuesday announced arrests and criminal charges in five cases involving sanctions evasion and technology espionage involving Russia, China and Iran.
Two Russian nationals were arrested last week on charges of sending plane parts to Russia in violation of sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. In another case, a former Apple engineer is accused of stealing the company’s autonomous vehicle technology to make available to a Chinese competitor.
The announcements were the work of a recently formed “Technology Strike Force” whose goal is to protect critical American technology or data from being stolen by enemy nations. The strike force was formed in February and brings together agents from the Departments of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the FBI and local law firms.
Federal agents work to track the movement of US goods and data around the world, and the funds used to pay for them. Efforts aim to crack down on the global networks that channel goods and technology through opaque jurisdictions and middlemen in an attempt to circumvent sanctions and technology restrictions imposed by the United States.
In another case revealed Tuesday, a California-based engineer is accused of attempting to steal the source code for advanced machinery that can be used to manufacture parts for military submarines and aircraft, in order to sell it to several Chinese companies sell.
Two other cases were announced, including charges against China-based agents who US officials said were accused of attempting to send weapons of mass destruction materials to Iran and charges related to allegedly supplying advanced technology to Russia , which could be used for other purposes by the Russian military.
Matthew G. Olsen, the assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, told reporters that the cases demonstrated the US government’s ability to “expedite investigations and strengthen our collective resources to counter these threats.”
“Foreign nation-states are working hard to acquire our most sensitive technologies,” said Matthew Axelrod, assistant secretary for export enforcement in the Department of Commerce’s Office 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 trying to procure millions of dollars worth of prohibited parts for Russian airlines, have been charged with conspiracy to violate the Export Control Reform Act and Charged with conspiracy to commit international money laundering. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison for each charge.
The Commerce Department on Tuesday issued a temporary denial order against the men, banning them from transactions in U.S. products for 180 days.
The order also applies to a freight forwarder in the Maldives, which the men had used to transport shipments of banned products to Russia, as well as a Russian airline, Smartavia, which wanted to buy these products.
On Thursday, federal officials confiscated luxury goods purchased with proceeds from their scheme, a US official said.