It takes a special type of person to look at the Russian invasion of Ukraine that was unprovoked and unwarranted and say to themselves this is our time to make some cash with a plan that violates sanctions levied on Russia by the United States and others. Not only is it morally repugnant, it is illegal and should net the offenders a trip to an 8×6 cinder block room and three meals a day at taxpayer expense.
It is truly a shame such occurs. We think that it doesn’t happen often, but we’d be wrong. Not that once isn’t too often but this sort of behavior permeates to the surface far too regularly as we learn through the prosecutions of the Department of Justice (and yes, it begs the question without an answer, “how many others have taken this path of subterfuge and gotten away with it?).
To think this is happening in an era when the favorability of Russia in the eyes of Americans has fallen to an all time low – 9%, according to a new Gallup poll. This places Russia amongst the pariah states, North Korea and Iran who have also enjoy a poll rating among Americans below 10% for quite some time.
Let that serve as the backdrop as we look at the recent collection of miscreants who have percolated out of the sewer of immorality to peddle goods and services to Russia in violation of sanctions.
DOJ Committed to Russian Sanctions
According to the DOJ, “Cyril Gregory Buyanovsky, 59, of Lawrence, and Douglas Robertson, 55, of Olathe, owned and operated KanRus Trading Company, which supplied Western avionics equipment (i.e., electronics installed in aircraft) to Russian companies and provided repair services for equipment used in Russian-manufactured aircraft.” Not just any Russian entity, the DOJ pointed out how KanRus knew their end-user was the Russian security service, the FSB and worked their tails off to hide the fact that their customer was Russian in hopes to skate around the sanctions prohibiting the export of technology in this manner to any Russian customer.
Others paved the way for this sort of behavior, including Ilya Balakaev, who has yet to be captured and faces up to 75 years in prison for his violation of sanctions providing surveillance and counter-surveillance equipment manufactured in the United States to Russia’s FSB. Like the gents at Kanrus, Balakaev’s eyes were wide open, and he went to great lengths to create a daisy chain of companies through which the various components or devices passed.
How serious is the DOJ? As serious as a heart attack. On March 3, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco Delivers spoke at the American Bar Association National Institute on White Collar Crime and announced the DOJ was hiring “25 new prosecutors who will investigate and prosecute sanctions evasion, export control violations and similar economic crimes.”
Those who opt to violate sanctions may look forward to not only being discovered, but also facing a significant amount of time in federal prison if found guilty. The DOJ has the personnel, tasking, and inclination to make it happen.
Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of securelytravel.com