American prosecutors say they followed a trail of electronics, money and greed through Montreal on their way to charging a Canadian-Russian couple and a Brooklyn man with conspiracy to evade sanctions imposed on Moscow over the war in Ukraine.
Kristina Puzyreva, 32, and her husband Nikolay Goltsev, 37, and Salimdzhon Nasriddinov, 52, were each charged with smuggling, conspiracy to violate sanctions and wire fraud conspiracy.
According to court records put before a U.S. judge, Goltsev has for years been buying American electronic components for the Russian military while living in Canada.
The arrests and subsequent disclosure of the allegations shed light on a major problem NATO allies have been grappling with for months: Moscow’s continued ability to reconstitute its military in the face of punishing western sanctions.
The court records show Puzyreva ran an electronics company in Montreal, Simatech Group Inc., which also was active in buying what’s known as dual-use technology — tech with both civilian and military applications.
“She has received over 130 packages at her Canadian address from U.S. electronics distributors over approximately the last five years,” said the motion to deny the suspects bail.
At the same time, court records state, Goltsev “served as an account manager and purchasing coordinator for Electronic Network, Inc.,” another Montreal-based company, which is under sanction by both the U.S. and Canadian governments.
Quoting from intercepted text messages, the court records said Goltsev told Nasriddinov he had “many orders,” but it was “becoming difficult to do business here [in Canada] …
“Maybe it will be easier to do through the U.S. . . .everything is loaded from the USA . . . everything that needs to be received, payment place the orders, get the goods together and unload it in any ‘friendly’ country.”
Shipments worth roughly $10 million, prosecutors say
The court filings allege the three accused were working with four unnamed co-conspirators based in Russia who work for major electronics companies that supply components to the Russian military.
U.S. authorities said the scheme began in January 2022, and involved Brooklyn-based SH Brothers and SN Electronics arranging shipments of electronic components and integrated circuits after buying the equipment from U.S. companies.
Authorities said the scheme involved more than 300 illegal shipments valued at about $10 million, and that some of the electronics were later recovered from helicopters, missiles, tanks and other Russian equipment that had been seized in Ukraine.
The components were discovered in Ka-52 helicopters, the Izdeliye 305E light multi-purpose guided missile, Orlan-10 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and T-72B3 battle tanks.
The court records allege the defendants knew the electronics had military uses.
The documents say Goltsev purchased the electronic components directly from U.S. firms using an alias, then arranged to have them shipped to Brooklyn; from there they were then sent to Russia through a variety of intermediary companies in Turkey, Hong Kong, China, India, the UAE and elsewhere.
Lawyers for the accused were not immediately available to comment.
Global Affairs Canada, which administers the country’s sanctions list, was asked for comment but has yet to respond.
The U.S. court records suggest Goltsev has been procuring electronic components for the Russian military for at least six years.
‘We will get rich’
The court records allege he maintained a 12-year association with the Russian electronics companies Radioavtomatika, Testkomplekt, EKB-Neva, among others.
In one message from Jan. 17, 2017 intercepted by authorities, Goltsev allegedly told his contact that he understood certain components and circuit boards were destined for “a military end user” and he recommended that Radioavtomatika test the parts in their laboratory.
In another missive cited in court documents, Nasriddinov wrote a message to Goltsev — “Happy Defender of the Fatherland” — prompting Goltsev to reply with a smile emoji and state that “we are defending it in the way that we can.”
Another message quoted Goltsev complaining to Puzyreva about his fingers hurting from typing account activity on his laptop, prompting his wife to respond, “Lot of money? We will get rich.”