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Officials: Russian Man Attempted to Smuggle Military Night-Vision Technology


"Attempted to cause the export of approximately seventeen different night vision devices and thermal imaging scopes ..."

Flir thermal imaging

A Russian man was sentenced in a U.S. court to 18 months in prison for trying to export sophisticated military technology including thermal imaging devices and night scopes used on unmanned aerial vehicles.

night vision scope Dmitry pled guilty to attempts at smuggling military technology to Russia, including D-740 night vision scopes, seen here (Image source: SavvySurvivor)

"Dmitry Ustinov ... was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 18 months in prison and 3 years supervised release, for conspiracy to export high-tech military technology, in violation of federal law, including the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations," Charles M. Oberly, III, U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware, said.

Between July 2010 and April 2013, Ustinov "caused or attempted to cause the export of approximately seventeen different night vision devices and thermal imaging scopes, which are designated on the United States Munition List as defense articles, and are prohibited from export outside the United States," the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The defense technology, including Insight Mini Thermal Monoculars, D-740 night vision scopes, and Flir Tau 640 thermal imaging cameras, is primarily used for weapons’ mounted or helmet mounted night vision devices. The Flir Tau 640s can even be mounted to fast moving vehicles or aircrafts, such as unmanned aerial vehicles.

The DOJ said Ustinov was scheming to avoid law enforcement detection "at each step in the process" given the sensitive nature of the "defense articles."

"First, Ustinov worked closely with a United States-based straw purchaser to conceal his involvement at the point of sale.  Second, once a specific defense article was identified for purchase, Ustinov wired money to the straw purchaser to buy the defense article from front companies located in off-shore accounts in Cyprus," Oberly said.

Without a federal license for the equipment’s export, Ustinov set up U.S. front companies and wired money to offshore accounts in Cyprus and had packages falsely labeled to avoid detection by customs.

The 53-year-old Moscow man pled guilty to the charges in July 2013, but when Ustinov was initially detained and then extradited from Lithuania in April and May of last year, he denied any wrongdoing. Russia fought the extradition and released a statement at the time, saying it disagreed with U.S. tactics in the case.

"(The embassy) will do everything necessary to defend the legal rights of D. Ustinov,” it said, according to Bloomberg. “We don’t agree with this treatment of a Russian citizen.”

Tensions between U.S. and Russia have steadily increased on multiple fronts such as Edward Snowden's asylum approval and the Crimea/Ukraine struggles, and Russia is becoming increasingly unhappy with the United States' practice of arresting their citizens in cooperating countries, according to Konstantin Dolgov, a Russian Foreign Ministry's human rights representative. He said the practice is "of the most serious concern," and violates terms of a 1999 treaty between the former Cold War foes.

"[We are] outraged by the fact that American special services and law enforcement agencies are still trying to legitimize the practice of arresting and detaining Russian nationals in third countries on frivolous grounds,” Dolgov said in 2013. The Russian Embassy did not return TheBlaze request for comment Wednesday evening.

Ustinov will be deported from the United States upon his release from federal prison.


Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.


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