Italian company admits guilt in scheme to evade U.S. national security trade sanctions
International investigation continues against remaining defendants
SAVANNAH, GA (STL.News) An Italian company has entered a guilty plea in a scheme to evade United States national security laws.
GVA International Oil and Gas Services (GVA) pled guilty in U.S. District Court to violating the Export Control Act, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The plea subjects the company to a sentence of up to five years’ probation, along with significant fines and financial restitution.
GVA owner Gabrielle Villone currently is serving a 28-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy in the case, USA v. World Mining and Oil Supply et. al.
“This conspiracy represents a tangled web of deceit designed to allow Russian interests to evade United States trade sanctions,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to hold accountable those who would threaten our nation’s security.”
As described in court documents and testimony, the conspiracy began when an unnamed Russian government-controlled business contracted with Oleg Vladislavovich Nikitin, general director of KS Engineering (KSE), a St. Petersburg, Russia-based energy company, to purchase a power turbine from a U.S.-based manufacturer for approximately $17.3 million. The Russian company intended to use the turbine on a Russian Arctic deepwater drilling platform, expressly prohibited by the U.S. Department of Commerce without first obtaining a license.
Nikitin and KSE previously pled guilty to a conspiracy to evade U.S. export regulations and to defraud the United States and await sentencing.
Nikitin admitted that he and another KSE employee, Anton Cheremukhin, conspired with Villone, GVA, and GVA employee Bruno Caparini, to obtain the turbine on their behalf. Villone, Caprini and GVA then employed the services of Dali Bagrou and World Mining and Oil Supply (WMO) of Dacula, Ga., to procure the turbine from a U.S.-based manufacturer and to have the turbine shipped overseas. The parties conspired to conceal the true end user of the turbine from both the U.S. manufacturer and the U.S. government by submitting false documentation that stated it would be used by a U.S. company in and around Atlanta.
Nikitin, Villone, and Bagrou all were arrested in Savannah, Ga., while attempting to complete the illegal transaction. Bagrou remains in custody pending further legal action, and with all defendants is considered innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
The Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, as well as the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating the case with assistance from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Customs and Border Protection. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer G. Solari and Steven H. Lee are prosecuting the case with Trial Attorney William A. Mackie of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.