Latvian citizen charged by U.S. with supplying advanced avionics to Russia

A release from the United States Department of Justice says a Latvian citizen is being held awaiting extradition in Rīga on suspicion of supplying advanced avionics components to aggressor state Russia.

"A citizen of the Republic of Latvia is charged with crimes related to a years-long conspiracy to sell sophisticated avionics equipment to Russian companies, in violation of U.S. export laws. The defendant is the third to be arrested and charged in connection with the conspiracy led by a Kansas company and two U.S. nationals," said the DoJ.

According to the superseding indictment, the individual is fifty-five-year-old Olegs Čitsjakovs, with his name transcribed slightly differently into English as 'Oleg Chistyakov' (sic).

It is alleged that Chistyakov conspired with U.S. citizens Cyril Gregory Buyanovsky and Douglas Edward Robertson, of Kansas, "to facilitate the sale, repair and shipment of U.S. avionics equipment to customers in Russia and in other countries that operate Russian-built aircraft, including the Federal Security Service of Russia (FSB)." 

Chistyakov was arrested on March 19 near Riga and remains detained pending extradition proceedings. In December 2023, Buyanovsky pleaded guilty to conspiracy and conspiracy to commit money laundering, and consented to the forfeiture of over $450,000 worth of avionics equipment and a $50,000 personal forfeiture judgment.

“As alleged, Mr. Chistyakov facilitated hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit transactions to funnel sophisticated U.S. aerospace technology to companies in Russia,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “This arrest is another example of the Justice Department’s unwavering mission to hold accountable those who enable Russian aggression, including those involved in facilitation networks that fuel the Russian war effort.”

U.S. Attorney Kate E. Brubacher for the District of Kansas said: “Oleg Chistyakov’s arrest was only possible due to the assistance and cooperation of authorities in Latvia. This type of international cooperative effort makes it immensely challenging for those accused of committing crimes against the U.S. to find safe havens beyond reach of our judicial system.”

“It doesn't matter if you’re in Kansas or in Latvia — if you violate American law, you risk facing American justice,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce Matthew S. Axelrod for Export Enforcement. “We continue to work closely with law enforcement partners across the globe to pursue those who seek to send military-grade aerospace equipment to support the Russian military.” 

According to court documents, after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and despite additional U.S. economic countermeasures levied against Russia, Chistyakov and his conspirators continued to smuggle and export sophisticated and controlled avionics equipment to companies in Russia without the required licenses from the U.S. Department of Commerce. 

As further alleged, Chistyakov, while operating from Latvia, worked with Buyanovsky and Robertson through their U.S. company, KanRus Trading Company Inc. (KanRus), to circumvent U.S export laws by purchasing avionics equipment from U.S. companies for customers in Russia. Chistyakov allegedly acted as a broker for KanRus by soliciting quotes, negotiating prices and terms of delivery, and facilitating payments between KanRus and customers in Russia. 

The superseding indictment details actions allegedly taken by Chistyakov and his conspirators to conceal their illegal activities including by creating false invoices, transshipping items through third-party countries, such as Germany and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), using bank accounts in third-party countries, such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the UAE, and exporting items to intermediary companies which then reexported the items to the ultimate end destinations. 

On Dec. 6, 2023, the U.S. Department of Commerce added many of the entities and individuals involved in Chistyakov’s alleged illegal export scheme to the Commerce Department’s Entity List as part of the U.S. government’s interagency efforts to dismantle Russian procurement networks designed to circumvent U.S. export controls and sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Entity List imposes specific license requirements on all listed individuals and entities.

Chistyakov is charged with one count of conspiracy, two counts of violation of Export Control Reform Act, multiple counts of smuggling goods from the United States, conspiracy to commit international money laundering and two counts of international money laundering. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for conspiracy, 20 years in prison for each Export Control count, 10 years in prison for each smuggling count and 20 years in prison for each money laundering count.

The FBI and the Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement are investigating the case, including participation in Latvia following Chistyakov’s arrest. Procedural actions were carried out in close cooperation with the State Security Service of the Republic of Latvia and assistance of the Prosecutor-General’s Office.    

It is not the first time the U.S. and Latvian authorities have teamed up to prevent illegal exports to Russia. In another case in 2022, the two countries worked to prevent the export of machining equipment as part of a far-reaching investigation.

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