Archive for the ‘Arms Export’ Category


Sep

17

Turkish Citizen Indicted For Foreign Downloads of Submarine Drawings


Posted by at 7:11 pm on September 17, 2014
Category: Arms ExportCriminal PenaltiesDDTCITARUSML

By U.S. Navy via http://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=16778 [Public Domain]Alper Calik — a Turkish citizen and co-owner of Clifton, New Jersey based Clifmax LLC — has been arrested based on a criminal complaint, dated September 12, charging him, among other things, with violating the Arms Export Control Act by exporting without a license certain drawings relating to the NSSN (Virginia) class submarine. (And, no, I am not reporting this case simply because the company is named Clifmax, although that is, leaving the alleged criminal conduct aside, an awesome name for a company.)

At the heart of the allegations are two drawings that Calik downloaded from a DoD database after signing the Military Critical Technical Data Agreement which must be signed in order to gain access to the DoD drawing database at issue. The criminal complaint alleges that Calik downloaded these images while in Turkey and attempts to assert that Calik knew doing this was illegal because he had signed the Military Critical Technical Data Agreement.

However, the Military Critical Technical Data Agreement is hardly specific about what is or is not permitted with respect to the drawings, saying only this:

[The undersigned] acknowledge[s] all responsibilities under applicable U.S. export control laws and regulations (including the obligation, under certain circumstances, to obtain an export license from the U.S. Government prior to the release of militarily critical technical data within the United States) or applicable Canadian export control laws and regulations, and (2) agree[s] not to disseminate militarily critical technical data in a manner that would violate applicable U.S. or Canadian export control laws and regulations.

Suffice it to say that this certification is poorly drafted and confusing, mentioning an export license only in the context of releasing the data “within the United States.” Nor does the certification that he would not “disseminate” the data clearly prohibit him from downloading the information for his own personal review in a foreign country. Obviously, such downloads do in fact violate U.S. exports if the downloads include ITAR-controlled technical data, but this certification neither makes that clear nor establishes that Calik had the necessary criminal intent when he downloaded the documents

The complaint alleges that there were legends restricting export on the drawings involved, but does not quote those legends. Whether these legends are enough of a predicate to support the criminal intent necessary for conviction on the export charges depends on what those legends said and that remains to be seen.

UPDATE:  Two commenters make an excellent point about using the legends on the drawings as indicia of criminal intent: Calik would have only seen the legends after he downloaded the drawings in Turkey.  The significance of this point is magnified even further when you consider this statement from the criminal complaint:

Beginning in or around 2009 to the present time, ALPER CALIK downloaded approximately one hundred thousand drawings. some of which were subject to U.S. export control regulations without obtaining export licenses from the U.S. Department of State. ALPER CALIK was not in the United States when the majority of the drawings were downloaded.

At issue are only two of these one hundred thousand downloaded drawings, which would have revealed the legends only after being downloaded.  The overwhelming portion of the remainder of the drawings not having any indication that the downloading of these or other drawings might be problematic.

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Sep

9

Export Fugitive Ends Life on the Lam, Pleads to Lesser Charge


Posted by at 9:06 pm on September 9, 2014
Category: Arms ExportCriminal PenaltiesDDTCExtradition

John NakkashianA little over five years ago, we reported on a settlement agreement pursuant to which Air Shunt, Inc., agreed to pay DDTC a penalty of $100,000 in connection with three unlicensed exports of military aircraft parts. These same three violations were alleged in an indictment of an Air Shunt Vice-President, John Nakkashian, who was at the time of the settlement nowhere to be found and presumed to be a “fugitive from justice.”

For reasons not entirely clear, Nakkashian was arrested in June of this year by ICE agents at the Los Angeles International Airport. I suspect that this was not because Nakkashian was trying to sneak back into the country to vacation at Disneyland. More likely it was part of a carefully negotiated deal, because Nakkashian and the prosecutors just submitted a plea agreement to the court under which Nakkashian pleaded to one false statement count (18 U.S.C. § 1001) in connection with one of the three illegal exports set forth in the original indictment. The false statement at issue was Nakkashian’s  statement in the export documents that no license was required for the export. The government, in return, agrees to a base offense level of 8 under the Sentencing Guidelines which would mean, if Nakkashian has no prior criminal history, a sentence of zero to six months. Compare this to the original indictment where each of the three counts had a base offense level of 26, meaning a sentence of at least 63-78 months for a defendant with no prior criminal history.

That’s a sweet deal and you have to wonder how a former “fugitive from justice” got this deal until you realize that Armenia, which is where we suspected Mr. Nakkashian (by virtue of his surname) was hiding out, has no extradition treaty with the United States. Moreover, given that this was not a crime of violence, it is unlikely that Armenia would voluntarily cooperate in returning Mr. Nakkashian to the United States for trial. That gave Nakkashian a potent bargaining chip which it would seem he used to maximum benefit with the U.S. preferring to impose some penalty rather than none at all.

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Aug

19

Chinese Hacker Nabbed on Export Charges


Posted by at 9:20 pm on August 19, 2014
Category: Arms ExportCriminal PenaltiesDDTCDeemed Exports

Stephen Su photo taken by CBP during U.S. transit in 2011 via http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/su-bin-chinese-man-accused-by-fbi-of-hacking-in-custody-in-b-c-1.2705169 [Public Domain]
ABOVE: Stephen Su


Well, we all know, or should know, that hacking is a criminal violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, at least when it entails unauthorized access to another party’s computer. What you may not know is that if you’re a foreign national and if the data accessed is technical data controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, hacking can also be a violation of the Arms Export Control Act.

Back in June, Canadian authorities arrested, at the request of the FBI, a Chinese citizen and Canadian permanent resident named, variously, Su Bin, Stephen Su and Stephen Subin, who we’ll refer to simply as Su for convenience.  Su , the owner of Lode-Tech, a Chinese company with an office in Canada, was accused of conspiring with several Chinese nationals to hack into U.S. defense contractors’ computer systems and to exfiltrate data about military aircraft back to China.  Last Friday, Su was indicted by a federal grand jury in California.

One of the charges in the indictment is a violation of the Arms Export Control Act.  The theory behind this charge is that Su, with his PRC-based co-conspirators, conspired to break in the U.S. computer systems and to disclose ITAR-controlled technical data to foreign nationals among whom were, of course, themselves.

The criminal complaint filed back in June, which served as the basis for Su’s arrest, contains some fascinating details.  First, it appears that access was gained to the defense contractors’ systems by sending emails to employees of the contractors containing infected attachments or links to infected websites that installed malware on the systems which allowed the hackers to control the systems, to view files on the system, and to send the files back to themselves.   Interestingly, the files were then transferred to hop points or servers in Hong Kong and Macao and from there were physically carried back into the PRC.   Interestingly, it appears that as the Internet becomes easier for security agencies to surveil, modern spies have started to revert back to older methods of spycraft such as smuggling documents, document drops, and, conceivably, even encrypted Morse code shortwave radio transmissions.  One wonders if the NSA is training folks in Morse Code and invisible ink.  What’s next?  Microdots?

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Jun

26

How Not To Smuggle Guns To Nigeria


Posted by at 8:38 pm on June 26, 2014
Category: Arms ExportCriminal Penalties

Mugshot of Sheriff Olaleran Mohammed [Fair Use]
ABOVE: Sheriff Mohammed


A federal jury in Minnesota, on June 16, convicted a naturalized U.S. citizen on charges that he illegally exported guns to Nigeria without a license. At issue were eight handguns that Sheriff Olaleran Mohammed stuffed into brown paper bag and placed between the seats of a 1998 Mercury that was being shipped via a cargo ship container to Nigeria. Spanish police discovered the guns when the ship called in Valencia, Spain, on its way to Lagos.

The trial brief filed by Mr. Mohammed’s lawyers before the jury trial gives a pretty clear idea why he was ultimately convicted. First, the brief tries to rely on the exemption in section 123.17(c) of the ITAR for temporary exports of not more than three nonautomatic weapons for personal use. Since there were eight guns in the paper bag in the Mercury, I guess the idea here was that the defendant could invoke the exemption three times to cover his eight guns, or something like that.

The other argument forwarded by the defendant’s trial brief on the export charge is that Mr. Mohammed had no idea whatsoever that it was illegal to export firearms for personal use to Nigeria without a license. Which is, of course, why he stuffed them in a paper bag and hid them in a 1998 Mercury he was sending to Nigeria.

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Jan

31

Russian Export Defendant Slapped on Wrist, Told to Leave U.S.


Posted by at 5:35 pm on January 31, 2014
Category: Arms ExportCriminal Penalties

By  Sgt. Scott M. Biscuiti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADefense.gov_photo_essay_090329-M-7747B-015.jpgBack in November, this blog reported on the indictment of a Russian citizen, Roman Kvinikadze, on charges that he attempted to export military thermal imaging sights without the required State Department license. As we noted then, the indictment created a bit of a diplomatic row between the United States and Russia, with Russia claiming that federal agents knowingly provoked Kvinikadze to violate the law and then lured him into the United States to arrest him. The Russian pique was directed at statements by the undercover U.S. agent to Kvinikadze that the sights required an export license but that if the license was unavailable there were other ways he could ship the sights to Kvinikadze. Although these facts might not support the narrowly construed entrapment defense, they can easily been seen as grounds for a diplomatic contretemps.

Well, the Russian irritation seems to have been heard loud and clear in Washington. Last week, a federal judge sentenced Kvinikadze, who had entered a guilty plea, to time served and a $7500 fine. He also ordered Kvinikadze to leave the United States, something that Kvinikadze was no doubt happy to do with or without a judicial order requiring him to do so. Kvinikadze had been in custody for 147 days so time served was significantly less than would have been required under federal sentencing guidelines which would have specified a minimum sentence of 33 to 41 months. News reports stated that the prosecutor requested the reduced sentence, and the judge justified it by stating that “Kvinikadze may not have fully appreciated the potential damage to relations between the U.S. and Russia if the sights had fallen into wrong hands.”

When I reviewed the docket to see if I could find anything else to justify this lenient sentence, I discovered that the Presentence Report, the Presentence Report Recommendation and an Addendum to the Presentence Report were all sealed and unavailable for review. Although there are a number of reasons that this could be the case, including the possibility of the discussion of some extremely private matters involving Kvinikadze, my money is that these were sealed because they have a discussion of the diplomatic ramifications of the sentence, something that prosecutors and courts are loathe to reveal. So when Kvinikadze is safely back in Russia, I’m going to bet he sends an effusive thank you note to his BFF Vladimir Putin.

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