A Russian was arrested in the USA who organized illegal supplies of parts for Russian aircraft - ForumDaily
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In the United States arrested a Russian who organized the illegal supply of parts for Russian aircraft

On May 11, Oleg Patsulya, a Russian citizen living near Miami, and his business partner were arrested on charges of violating US export controls and international money laundering. They oversaw a criminal network that supplied parts for aircraft to Russia, reports NewYorkTimes.

Photo: IStock

Last August, Oleg Patsulya sent an email to a Russian airline cut off from Western technology and materials with a tempting offer. He could help circumvent the global sanctions imposed on Rossiya Airlines after Russia's invasion of Ukraine by smuggle the aircraft parts and electronics it so desperately needed through a network of companies based in Florida, Turkey and Russia.

“In light of the sanctions imposed against the Russian Federation, we are successfully addressing the emerging issues,” Patsulya wrote, according to a criminal lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Arizona.

Russian citizens taken into custody last May began developing their scheme to ship aircraft parts from the United States to Russia in violation of export regulations, according to the criminal complaint.

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The men are accused of sending requests for parts, including expensive braking systems for the Boeing 737, from at least three Russian airlines, including two that were strictly prohibited from buying American-made products under a so-called temporary ban issued by Department of Commerce.

On May 11, the luxurious Trump Towers high-rise complex in Sunny Isles Beach (Florida) attracted the attention of law enforcement agencies, namely the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A squad of FBI special agents, assisted by local police, entered Trump Tower III at 15811 Collins Avenue to search apartment 4102.

It belongs to the shell company MIC-USA LLC, controlled by Patsulya and Agunda Makeeva.

Unprecedented sanctions that can be circumvented

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States has partnered with nearly 40 other governments to impose sanctions on Russia, including restricting Moscow's access to weapons, computer chips, aircraft parts, and other products needed to fuel their economy and fight the war. The sanctions also affected Russian airlines, including Aeroflot, its subsidiary Rossiya and others.

But despite these far-reaching sanctions, thousands of shipments of aircraft parts were successfully shipped to Russia last year, according to a Russian customs dataset obtained by The New York Times.

Data compiled and analyzed by US trade data aggregator Import Genius shows that tens of millions of dollars worth of aircraft parts have been shipped to Russian airlines, including Rossiya, Aeroflot, Ural Airlines, S7 Airlines, Utair Aviation and Pobeda Airlines.

These shipments were made possible by illicit networks such as Patsul's that have sprung up to try to circumvent restrictions by moving goods through a series of front buyers, often in the Middle East and Asia.

For example, last year Aeroflot's warehouses received dozens of batches of copper wires, bolts, graphite and other parts marked as manufactured by Boeing in the United States. They passed through little-known trading companies, free trade zones and industrial parks in the United Arab Emirates and China, and then went to Russia to help patch up Aeroflot's decrepit fleet.

The data covers more than 5000 separate shipments of aircraft parts to Russia over eight months in 2022, from simple propellers to $290 Honeywell-brand aircraft engine starters.

Altogether, this shows that US-made aircraft parts worth $14,4 million were shipped to Russia in eight months, including $8,9 million worth of parts that were manufactured or registered under the trademark of the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing and sold to Russia through third parties. .

Boeing has said it is fully compliant with US sanctions and has suspended delivery of parts, maintenance and technical support to customers in Russia in early 2022. Experts in the aviation supply chain say the parts likely came from a variety of sources, such as existing overseas stocks of airlines and repair shops or resellers who trade in scrap parts.

According to the data, most of the production was sent through countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, China and the Maldives. But several shipments, including to Russia, were sent directly from the US or Europe.

Shipments have also increased over the past year as Russia hired global companies to help it get around sanctions.

The state of Russian aviation

Despite the level of sanctions evasion, deliveries to Russia remain significantly lower than before the war. US officials say Russian airlines have been forced to strip planes for parts to keep others in service, while also turning to Iran for maintenance and parts.

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According to The Observatory of Economic Complexity, a data visualization platform that examines the dynamics of global trade, Russian imports of aircraft and aircraft parts fell from $3,45 billion a year before the invasion to only about $286 million after it.

China has been the leading exporter of aircraft, spacecraft and drone parts to Russia since the invasion, accounting for about half of all shipments, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Silverado Policy Accelerator, followed by India.

According to aviation data provider Cirium, the number of narrow-body aircraft in use in Russia fell by about 16 percent from the summer of 2021 to the summer of 2022 following the invasion. The number of larger twin-body aircraft frequently used on international routes has been reduced by about 40 percent.

Aviation experts say it will become more difficult for Russian airlines to continue flying aircraft without access to Western suppliers and help from Boeing and Airbus. Manufacturers regularly consult with airlines to assess damage and strictly control access to technical documentation used by mechanics.

But for now, Russian airlines survive on international flights and on the use of hundreds of foreign aircraft stranded there since the start of the war.

According to the schedule published by Cirium, tens of thousands of flights will fly through Russia this month. More than 21 flights, more than half of which are operated by Russian airlines, are expected to take passengers to and from Central Asian countries, as well as to and from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, China and Thailand.

A half-dozen export control lawyers and former government officials said many of the deliveries in the Import Genius data likely violated sanctions, but aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing or Airbus were not necessarily to blame. The aviation supply chain is complex and global, and parts can come from many different sources.

“It is clear that there is a violation,” said William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who oversaw export controls during the Clinton administration. “The guilty party is less obvious.”

According to the data, aircraft parts manufactured in the European Union were also shipped to Russia last year, including those marked as manufactured or registered under the Airbus trademark.

Justin Dubon, a spokesman for Airbus, said the company keeps track of original parts and documentation provided to its customers and conducts due diligence on all parties requesting replacement parts. Restrictions in the US and Europe mean "there are no legal routes by which original aircraft parts, documentation and services can get to Russian carriers," he said.

US restrictions technically allow companies to apply for a special license to continue shipping products to Russian carriers for "safety" reasons, but both Boeing and Airbus have said they have neither requested nor received such a license. In addition, Airbus said that the laws of the European Union prohibit it from supplying such goods to Russia, regardless of the US license.

US controls

Compared to other countries that mostly limit their control to goods crossing their own borders, the United States is unmatched in its efforts to control trade around the world.

Over the past three years, the United States has imposed new technological restrictions on Russia, China, and Iran that apply extraterritorially: goods made in the United States or in other countries with US components or technology are subject to US regulations even if they change hands on the other side of the world.

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Both the United States and the European Union are tightening sanctions on companies that violate sanctions and are sending officials to countries like Kazakhstan to try to convince them to cut off supplies to Russia through their territory. The US government has nine export control officers stationed in Istanbul, Beijing and other locations to track shipments of sensitive products.

But providing parts can be a lucrative business. James Disalvatore, deputy director of Haron, a data and analytics firm that tracks Russia's efforts to circumvent sanctions, said the cost of some aircraft parts imported by Russian airlines since the invasion has quadrupled or more.

As ForumDaily wrote earlier:

  • May 11 FBI conducted a search in a luxurious Trump Towers high-rise complex in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. The complex is owned by a shell company, MIC-USA LLC, controlled by two Russian businessmen, Oleg Patsulya and Agunda Makeeva.

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