You may think of “I’m Going to Disney World!” as an iconic slogan from a Superbowl ad, but in many cases they are instead the famous last words of foreign export defendants. Consider Sergei Baltutski, a Belarusian, who said this last April before taking his family on a trip to Disney World. Problem is, Mr. Baltutski had been having fellow Belarusians in the United States ship to him in Belarus military night vision purchased from eBay, and he got nabbed at the airport on his way to see Mickey and friends. Worst. Vacation. Ever.
Baltutski pleaded guilty, and his sentencing hearing took place recently in Philadelphia. According to his lawyer, the items, approximately $700,000 worth of night vision, were simply used by Belarusian hunters to bag wild boar which, apparently, mostly run at night. Who knew there were that many wild boar, and that many hunters, in Belarus? The sentencing hearing has been deferred a few weeks to permit Baltutski’s lawyers to prepare their boar argument to counter the prosecution’s request for higher sentences based on the potential harm to national security posed by Baltutski’s exports.
One interesting detail, provided in this news report, is that Baltutski’s accomplices sent some of the night vision to him through the Belarusian diplomatic pouch. Say what? The Belarusians are permitting illegal exports of defense articles via their diplomatic pouch? It seems to me that if the government is serious about the threat of these exports, somebody needs to have a long talk with the folks at the Belarusian Embassy. The Vienna Convention probably prohibits prosecuting anyone in the Embassy, but it doesn’t prevent putting the folks involved on a plane back to Belarus
Baltutski’s case is missing from Pacer, but here’s the indictment of his co-conspirators.
Belarusian says the accusations are false. It’s not possible to use diplomatic pouches for smuggling, because packing, shipping and opening of pouches are handled by three different employees. And the packages are only delivered to Foreign Ministry, not to somebody’s home: http://news.tut.by/society/365027.html But who’s gonna listen.
Also, import of night-vision products requires a license from Belarus’s Ministry of Defense, and I’ve never heard of one being granted to an individual. So once these guys come home there’ll be another term to serve.
Off-topic, there’s a few manufacturers of night-vision goggles and scopes in Belarus. They sell few at home, their major market is the US & EU. I wonder if any of the scopes these guys smuggled were actually made in Belarus )
Russian and other former Soviet NVG equipment are big sellers in the US at gun shows. They are particularly favored by coonhunters and hunters of wild Eurasian boar. With respect to the latter, around the turn of the century, some rich types from Up North brought in a load of Eurasian boars from Imperial Russia to stock a game farm in the Smokies. They thought an eight-foot fence would keep them in, but the boars were smarter than Yankees (not surprisingly), and dug their way out under the fence. There are bits and pieces of the Southern Appalachians which are owned by this invasive species (e.g., Jeffries’ Hell near Telico Plains, Tennessee). They have a gristle plate on their front that’s at least NIJ Level 3, and many grow tusks that are longer than the standard issue bayonet for an M-16. There is no natural predator in those parts except for hillbillies with long rifles. Many people, hounds and livestock as well as competing wildlife are injured by them every year, and they strip bare trees and foliage, not to mention gardens. If the Belarusians say they need NVG for hunting or just even evading wild boar, I’d say that’s at least plausible.