A four-count federal grand jury indictment returned in Austin and unsealed Friday, charges three foreign nationals – a Russian citizen and two Bulgarian citizens – with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), Export Control Reform Act (ECRA), and a money-laundering statute in a scheme to procure sensitive radiation-hardened circuits from the U.S. and ship those components to Russia through Bulgaria without required licenses.
“Time and again, we find the Russians attempting to get access to sensitive American technology. The defendants here are charged with exporting radiation-hardened chips to Russia, knowing that it was illegal to do so and establishing a business in Bulgaria to circumvent U.S. enforcement authorities,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “I am gratified by our whole-of-government response to this flagrant example of U.S. export controls evasion.”
“Today’s indictment demonstrates that the United States Attorney’s Office, the Department of Justice and our federal partners will follow those who seek to evade U.S. export enforcement laws wherever our investigations lead. National security remains our highest priority. We must never allow our most sensitive technology to fall into the hands of those who would seek to use it against us,” said U.S. Attorney Sofer.
“The Office of Export Enforcement in partnership with the FBI and DCIS uncovered an illicit procurement network that was diverting radiation-hardened integrated circuits from the United States through a Bulgarian front company to entities in Russia,” said P. Lee Smith, Performing the Non-exclusive Functions and Duties of the Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the Department of Commerce. “Today’s announcement and related action by the Commerce Department to place the parties on the Entity List represent a collaborative whole-of-government approach to protecting sensitive, controlled U.S. technology, which is critical to our national security.”
“Today’s indictment details the efforts our adversaries will make to obtain our sensitive technology and demonstrates that the United States will hold any individuals, organizations, and nations, who willfully violate our export laws accountable.” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs. “The FBI and our partners will work vigorously to protect and defend the national security of our country.”
The indictment alleges that 48-year-old Russian national Ilias Sabirov, 70-year-old Bulgarian national Dimitar Dimitrov and 46-year-old Bulgarian national Milan Dimitrov used Bulgarian company Multi Technology Integration Group EEOD (MTIG) to receive controlled items from the U.S. and send them to Russia. Under U.S. export control law, the goods could not be shipped to Russia without the permission of the U.S. government.
According to the indictment, Sabirov is the head of two Russian companies–Cosmos Complect and OOO Sovtest Comp.–and controls MTIG. Both Dimitar Dimitrov and Milan Dimitrov worked for Sabirov at Cosmos Complect and MTIG.
In 2014, the defendants met with the supplier of the radiation-hardened components in Austin and were informed that radiation-hardened circuits could not be shipped to Russia because of U.S. trade restrictions. Stymied by U.S. law, Sabirov established MTIG in Bulgaria and bought the controlled electronic circuits. The radiation-hardened properties of these circuits made them resistant to damage or malfunction in the harsh outer-space environment. Export of the parts was controlled by the U.S. government for these very reasons. The parts were shipped to Bulgaria in 2015 and MTIG soon thereafter shipped them to Sabirov’s companies in Russia. OOO Sovtest Comp. transferred over $1 million to MTIG for controlled U.S. parts.
In the same timeframe, MTIG—at Sabirov’s direction—ordered over $1.7 million in other electronic components produced by another U.S. electronics manufacturer. Sabirov bought these parts to fulfill part of his contract with OOO Sovtest Comp. Again, the parts were shipped from the U.S. to Bulgaria where they were merely repackaged and onward shipped to Russia.
In late 2018, a Department of Commerce Export Control Officer interviewed Milan Dimitrov during a visit at MTIG to determine whether the radiation-hardened components were still in MTIG’s possession in Bulgaria. Milan Dimitrov, among other things, fraudulently denied sending the components to Russia.
The indictment charges Sabirov, Dimitar Dimitrov and Milan Dimitrov with two counts related to violations of IEEPA and one count of money laundering. The indictment also charges Milan Dimitrov with one count of false statements to the government. Each count charged in the indictment calls for up to 20 years in federal prison upon conviction.
In conjunction with the unsealing of these charges, the Department of Commerce is designating Ilias Sabirov, Dimitar Dimitrov, Milan Dimitrov, Mariana Marinova Gargova, MTIG EOOD, Cosmos Complect and OOO Sovtest Comp., adding them to its Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List. Designation on the Entity List imposes a license requirement before any commodities can be exported from the U.S. to these persons or companies and establishes a presumption that no such license will be granted.
The Entity List identifies foreign parties that are prohibited from receiving some or all items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) unless the exporter secures a license. Those persons present a greater risk of diversion to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, terrorism or other activities contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests. Commerce – Office of Export Enforcement can add to the Entity List a foreign party, such as an individual, business, research institution or government organization, for engaging in activities contrary to U.S. national security and/or foreign policy interests. In most instances, license exceptions are unavailable for the export, re-export or transfer (in-country) to a party on the Entity List of items subject to the EAR. Rather, a prior license is required, usually subject to a policy of denial.
Commerce – Office of Export Enforcement and the FBI are investigating this case with assistance from Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS). The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided investigative assistance. The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael C. Galdo and G. Karthik Srinivasan of the Western District of Texas, as well as Trial Attorney Thea R. Kendler of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictment merely contains allegations of criminal activity.