Smuggling thermal imaging equipment outside of the US can carry stiff penalties. That’s what Dmitry Ustinov recently discovered after being found guilty of “conspiracy to export high-tech military technology.” The act is a clear violation of federal law including the Arms Export Control Act and ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations), garnering him an 18 month sentence in prison and a swift deportation. Afterward, he also must undergo a 3 year period of supervised release.
According to the Department of Justice, Ustinov was responsible for smuggling thermal imaging equipment between July 2010 and April 2013, including seventeen thermal scopes, mini thermal monoculars, thermal cameras & night vision systems by using offshore accounts in Cyprus, having his packages mislabeled to avoid customs. These items are typically head mounted or mounted on rifles. They can also be mounted on aircraft and UAV drones.
Since these thermal imaging & night vision systems are classified as defense articles on the United States Munition List, they are illegal to export out of country. And though when he was arrested in Vilnius, Lithuania and extradited last year to face charges he initially denied any involvement, citing he was being singled out for being “Russian” as a result of Lithuanians being still resentful of Russia’s treatment of them in the past. However, he pled guilty to the changes in July 2013 after Russia vehemently opposed the extradition.
Tensions have been on the rise with America, after Edward Snowden’s asylum, the unrest in Ukraine and now this. “[We are] outraged by the fact that American special services and law enforcement agencies are still trying to legitimize the practice of arresting and detaining Russian nationals in third countries on frivolous grounds,” said Konstantin Dolgov of the Russian Foreign Ministry. He also states Ustinov’s extradition “brusquely ignores the corresponding legal procedure” and is a violation of a 1999 treaty between Russian and the US which is an agreement to assist in criminal cases.
To date, Russia and the US have no treaties for extradition.
ITAR View of Smuggling Thermal Imaging
It is illegal. That being said, as of October 7, 2014, the updated violations list states:
(a) Without first obtaining the required license or other written approval from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, it is unlawful:
(1) To export or attempt to export from the United States any defense article or technical data or to furnish or attempt to furnish any defense service for which a license or written approval is required by this subchapter;
(2) To reexport or retransfer or attempt to reexport or retransfer any defense article, technical data, or defense service from one foreign end-user, end-use, or destination to another foreign end-user, end-use, or destination for which a license or written approval is required by this subchapter, including, as specified in §126.16(h) and §126.17(h) of this subchapter, any defense article, technical data, or defense service that was exported from the United States without a license pursuant to any exemption under this subchapter;
(3) To import or attempt to import any defense article whenever a license is required by this subchapter;
(4) To conspire to export, import, reexport, retransfer, furnish or cause to be exported, imported, reexported, retransferred or furnished, any defense article, technical data, or defense service for which a license or written approval is required by this subchapter; or
(5) To possess or attempt to possess any defense article with intent to export or transfer such defense article in violation of 22 U.S.C. 2778 and 2779, or any regulation, license, approval, or order issued thereunder.
(b) It is unlawful:
(1) To violate any of the terms or conditions of a license or approval granted pursuant to this subchapter, any exemption contained in this subchapter, or any rule or regulation contained in this subchapter;
(2) To engage in the business of brokering activities for which registration and a license or written approval is required by this subchapter without first registering or obtaining the required license or written approval from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. For the purposes of this subchapter, engaging in the business of brokering activities requires only one occasion of engaging in an activity as reflected in §129.2(b) of this subchapter.
(3) To engage in the United States in the business of either manufacturing or exporting defense articles or furnishing defense services without complying with the registration requirements. For the purposes of this subchapter, engaging in the business of manufacturing or exporting defense articles or furnishing defense services requires only one occasion of manufacturing or exporting a defense article or furnishing a defense service.
(c) Any person who is granted a license or other approval or acts pursuant to an exemption under this subchapter is responsible for the acts of employees, agents, brokers, and all authorized persons to whom possession of the defense article, which includes technical data, has been entrusted regarding the operation, use, possession, transportation, and handling of such defense article abroad. All persons abroad subject to U.S. jurisdiction who obtain custody of a defense article exported from the United States or produced under an agreement described in part 124 of this subchapter, and regardless of the number of intermediate transfers, are bound by the regulations of this subchapter in the same manner and to the same extent as the original owner or transferor.
(d) A person who is ineligible pursuant to §120.1(c)(2) of this subchapter, or a person with knowledge that another person is ineligible pursuant to §120.1(c)(2) of this subchapter, may not, directly or indirectly, in any manner or capacity, without prior disclosure of the facts to and written authorization from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls:
(1) Apply for, obtain, or use any export control document as defined in §127.2(b) for such ineligible person; or
(2) Order, buy, receive, use, sell, deliver, store, dispose of, forward, transport, finance, or otherwise service or participate in any manner in any transaction subject to this subchapter that may involve any defense article, which includes technical data, defense services, or brokering activities, where such ineligible person may obtain any benefit therefrom or have any direct or indirect interest therein.
(e) No person may knowingly or willfully attempt, solicit, cause, or aid, abet, counsel, demand, induce, procure, or permit the commission of any act prohibited by, or the omission of any act required by 22 U.S.C. 2778, 22 U.S.C. 2779, or any regulation, license, approval, or order issued thereunder.
[77 FR 16641, Mar. 21, 2012, as amended at 78 FR 52688, Aug. 26, 2013; 79 FR 8088, Feb. 11, 2014]
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