The United States (US) Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that it has arrested two Russian individuals over the alleged smuggling of aircraft parts into Russia.
The DOJ alleges that Oleg Sergeyevich Patsulya and Vasilii Sergeyevich Besedin conspired to violate the Export Control Reform Act (ECRA) and commit international money laundering, with the two individuals being arrested in the District of Arizona, U.S.
According to the DOJ, Patsulya and Besedin, both of whom reside in Miami, Florida, U.S, used a Florida-based company, MIC P&I, as well as working with other enterprises, thereby evading “U.S. export laws and regulations to send aircraft parts to Russian airline companies”. The complaint puts forth the allegation that the two “fielded requests for parts directly from the Russian airlines — many of which were already subject to increased export sanctions as a result of Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine — and then used intermediary companies and foreign bank accounts in third-party countries to mask the true identity of the customers and the source of payments”.
Following requests from Russia-based carriers, the pair then approached aircraft part suppliers in the US and deceived them regarding the final customers and final locations where the parts would be heading. “In furtherance of their criminal conspiracy, Patsulya and Besedin traveled to the District of Arizona in September 2022 and attempted to purchase export-controlled aircraft brake systems from an Arizona aircraft parts supply company,” the DOJ added.
“If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for violating the ECRA and up to 20 years in prison for conspiring to commit international money laundering,” the Department concluded.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the country’s aerospace sector has largely been shunned by the international community, which has completely restricted its access to spare parts as well as maintenance manuals for Western-made aircraft. According to ch-aviation.com data, there are currently 806 aircraft made by Airbus, ATR, Boeing, Bombardier, De Havilland Canada, and Embraer in Russia, impacting numerous lessors and aircraft owners throughout the past year.
Russia-based airlines have attempted to maintain their fleets in various ways, including Aeroflot sending an Airbus A330 to be repaired in Iran.
In April 2023, a US judge awarded over $400 million to a lessor after Volga-Dnepr Group, the parent company of Volga-Dnepr Airlines, defaulted on lease payments on three Boeing 747-8F aircraft. Out of the three, two remain stuck in Russia, with the lessor BOC Aviation recovering VQ-BFE, now registered as OE-LFI and being operated by Air Belgium.