The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that Estonia has extradited Vadim Konoshchenok, who was arrested in Tallinn on December 15th, 2022. He is one of the seven members of the Merrimack-to-Moscow smuggling conspiracy. The announcement reads below:
“Vadim Konoshchenok will be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, Jr., at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn on an indictment charging him with conspiracy and other charges related to a global procurement and money laundering network on behalf of the Russian government. Konoshchenok, a Russian citizen with alleged ties to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), was arrested in Estonia on a provisional arrest warrant issued from the Eastern District of New York and extradited from Estonia to the United States on July 13, 2023.
“Vadim Konoshchenok allegedly provided cutting edge, American-developed technologies and ammunition to Russia for use in their illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Far from the battlefield, Konoshchenok will now face justice in an American courthouse, thanks to the staunch commitment of our Estonian partners and the federal prosecutors and agents who have dedicated their time and talents to disrupting the Kremlin’s war machine,” stated KleptoCapture Director Adams.
Last year, charges were announced against the defendant and others involved in this complex transnational criminal scheme under the direction of Russian intelligence services. Today’s extradition of Vadim Konoshchenok is a testament to the team of law enforcement professionals dedicated to enforcing U.S. export controls,” stated DOC Special Agent-in-Charge Carson. “We will continue to enforce the unprecedented export controls implemented in response to Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine and the Office of Export Enforcement intends to pursue these violators wherever they may be worldwide.
According to the indictment and court filings, the defendants were affiliated with Serniya Engineering and Sertal LLC (the “Serniya Network”), Moscow-based companies that operate under the direction of Russian intelligence services to procure advanced electronics and sophisticated testing equipment for Russia’s military industrial complex and research and development sector, some of which can be used in the development of nuclear and hypersonic weapons, quantum computing and other military applications. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce (DOC) Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) levied sanctions against Serniya, Sertal and several individuals and companies engaged in the scheme, calling them “instrumental to the Russian Federation’s war machine.
As alleged in the indictment, the Serniya Network was licensed to conduct highly sensitive and classified procurement activities by Russia’s FSB, Russia’s principal security agency and the main successor agency to the Soviet Union’s KGB. In electronic communications, Konoshchenok explicitly identified himself as an FSB “Colonel” and enclosed a photograph of himself wearing his FSB uniform. Additionally, a review of electronic communications equipment recovered from Konoshchenok revealed saved contacts beginning with the prefix “FSB” and email addresses from “FSB[.]ru” domains. One of Konoshchenok’s calendar entries referenced an “FSB order.”
As described in the indictment, Estonia was a popular transshipment point, where Konoshchenok would smuggle U.S.-origin items across the border into Russia. On October 27, 2022, Konoshchenok was detained by Estonian authorities attempting to cross into Russia from Estonia with approximately 35 different types of semiconductors and electronic components, including several U.S.-origin and export-controlled items. Konoshchenok has also been repeatedly stopped by Estonian border officials attempting to smuggle hundreds of thousands of American-made and export-controlled rounds into Russia, including 6.5 mm, 7 mm, .338 and .308 magnum rounds, which are commonly used by snipers, as well as military-grade .223 rounds. To date, over half a ton of military-grade ammunition linked to Konoshchenok has been recovered or interdicted before being smuggled into Russia. Konoshchenok used an Estonian front company called “Stonebridge Resources” and communicated frequently with other co-conspirators about sourcing, transporting and paying for controlled items. In electronic communications, Konoshchenok is clear that his fee is “10%” because he “can’t do less. Sanctions . . . Sanction item for 10%.
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum of 30 years’ imprisonment. The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
Russian intelligence operative extradited from Estonia to face charges of providing American ammo and electronics to the Russian military pic.twitter.com/VzMJZsOoZ6
— Adam Rawnsley (@arawnsley) July 14, 2023