Tajik-U.S. Businessman, Russian Accomplices Accused Of Smuggling Technology To Support Russia’s War In Ukraine

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A Tajik-American businessman and two Russian-Canadians are sitting in detention in New York for allegedly sending U.S.-origin technology to Russia, including electronic components that were later found in Russian military equipment seized in Ukraine, U.S. officials say.

Brooklyn resident Salimdzhon Nasriddinov, 52, and married couple Nikolay Goltsev, 37, and Kristina Puzyreva, 32, of Montreal, were each charged with smuggling, conspiracy to violate sanctions, and wire-fraud conspiracy.

They were allegedly part of a global scheme designed to evade U.S. sanctions and export controls to acquire critical technology for the Russian military used in its war in Ukraine.

Over the course of a year, the defendants managed to “dispatch over 300 shipments of restricted items, valued at approximately $7 million, to the Russian battlefield,” said Ivan Arvelo, special agent in charge of homeland-security investigations for New York.

Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Washington has significantly expanded the scope of the existing sanctions and export controls on Russia. There were already sanctions in place on Russia when the war started, related to Moscow’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, election meddling, and use of chemical weapons.

At the receiving end of the technology allegedly shipped by Nasriddinov, Goltsev, and Puzyreva were several Russian entities that were on the U.S. sanctions blacklist.

Among them were Testkomplekt, an electronic-components supplier, and Radioavtomatika Procurement Network, an entity that specializes in procuring foreign items for the Russian defense industry. The companies were added to the sanctions list of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in March.

Another company, EKB-NEVA Limited Liability Company, a supplier of electronic components, was listed among Russian entities under sanctions by the U.S. State Department in March.

The State Department said at the time that the entities were “complicit in sanctions evasion and circumvention, maintaining Russia’s capacity to wage its war of aggression, and supporting Russia’s future energy revenue sources.”

Nasriddinov’s Companies

The trio arrested in New York allegedly used two companies registered in Brooklyn — SH Brothers and SN Electronics — to purchase dual-use electronics from U.S. manufacturers and ship them abroad.

SH Brothers was set up by Nasriddinov in June 2021. He established SN Electronics in January 2023, registering it under his wife’s name, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reported.

U.S. prosecutors say the equipment was first shipped to countries such as China, India, and Turkey, from where it was sent to Russia.

Serial numbers show that some of the electronic components and integrated circuits shipped by SH Brothers were later found in Russian drones, missiles, helicopters, tanks, and other military equipment that had been found in Ukraine, U.S. officials claim.

Text messages between Nasriddinov and Goltsev show that the men knew the electronics they had exported had military uses, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department.

In one message, Goltsev commented how shipping to Russia had become “dangerous” and mentioned a shipment of electronic components that had been confiscated by U.S. officials at an international airport in New York.

Nasriddinov responded that “Ukrainians alleged that they’re being bombed from parts [made by U.S. manufacturers], maybe that’s why they started investigating everything?”

In another message, Goltsev said, “In the future we will need to load from several companies [so as] not to attract attention.”

“For now, large packages will be dangerous until we understand what they figured out,” he wrote to Nasriddinov, adding, “We will need to think of diversifying the load…so that not everything is moving from the same deck.”

On February 23, Nasriddinov wrote to Goltsev: “Happy Defender of the Fatherland [day],” referring to the holiday in Russia and some other former Soviet republics that celebrate their armed forces.

“We are defending it in the way that we can,” Goltsev replied, adding a smile emoji.

The trio didn’t enter a plea during their initial appearance in court. RFE/RL hasn’t been able to reach the defendants’ lawyers.

According to the prosecutors, thousands of semiconductors and other electronics were recovered from Nasriddinov’s Brooklyn home where he was detained.

Goltsev and Puzyreva were arrested at a Manhattan hotel during a trip to New York to visit Nasriddinov. About $20,000 was recovered from the couple, prosecutors said.

Authorities have also seized more than $1.1 million from U.S. bank accounts associated with the alleged scheme.

A photo posted on Nasriddinov's Facebook account, shows him receiving a medal from Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.
A photo posted on Nasriddinov’s Facebook account, shows him receiving a medal from Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.

‘Well-Known In Diaspora’

Nasriddinov, a native of the northwestern Tajik town of Panjakent, was reportedly well-known as a successful entrepreneur among the Tajik diaspora in New York.

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reported that Nasriddinov also lived in Russia, where he had received a PhD. The businessman also helped Tajikistan import equipment for the Central Asian country’s Roghun hydropower plant project, the report said.

One photo posted on Nasriddinov’s Facebook account depicts him receiving a medal from Tajik President Emomali Rahmon for his services to the Roghun project.

In 2021, Nasriddinov and several other members of the Tajik diaspora in New York City announced they had established a society called the New Tajik Generation to assist Tajik immigrants in the United States and provide Tajik-language lessons for the children of immigrants.

No date has been set for a trial yet. Prosecutors have said the defendants should remain in custody pending trial, as they pose a “serious flight risk” given their “significant” foreign ties.

Source: RFE/RL