Ten of Aeroflot Airlines crew were accused in the United States Court for allegedly smuggling a $50 million worth electronic devices, particularly Apple products such as Apple iPhones, iPads and Watches to Russia. According to the statement released by the United States Attorney Office for the Eastern District of New York, while eight of the Aeroflot crew were arrested, two of the defendants were deemed as fugitives.
On October 19, 2020, the investigation conducted by the FBI, Customs and Border Protection as well as other U.S authorities, found that ten employees of Aeroflot Airlines were involved in a smuggling case of $50 million worth of electronic goods, mostly apple products, to Russia.
“If you believe it is acceptable to exploit positions with a foreign airline to smuggle millions of dollars in illegal goods back to Russia as we allege, the answer is Nyet.”
– William F. Sweeney
According to Seth D. DuCharme, the Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, it was alleged that the Aeroflot crew were members of an international smuggling ring that used a network of operators in the U.S. and in Russia with an aim to circumvent the U.S .export laws and regulations.
During the investigation, the authorities found electronic devices worth millions of dollars, “many of which” were stolen, in the luggage of the accused crew members, as outlined in the authority’s release.
The American authorities suspected that crew members of the airline could have been carrying out the scheme of smuggling cash and merchandise by using passengers of the airline, including current and former Aeroflot Airlines employees.
“If you believe it is acceptable to exploit positions with a foreign airline to smuggle millions of dollars in illegal goods back to Russia as we allege, the answer is Nyet. While this international smuggling ring’s activities demonstrate vulnerabilities exist, it also highlights that the combined efforts of federal agents, detectives, analysts and prosecutors are a powerful counter to any threat,“ stated William F. Sweeney, the FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge.
„The FBI New York office and our inter-agency partners are on watch, and we all take our obligation to enforce our laws and protect the United States seriously,” added Sweeney.
As a result of the investigation, the Department of State has revoked approximately 113 visas of Aeroflot employees for their participation in their scheme.
Update October 22, 2020: Peter Morley, a spokesman for Aeroflot Airlines, strongly denied that the 10 defendants were current or former employees of Aeroflot.