Georgia company owner pleads guilty to evading trade sanctions

A Georgia company and its owner have admitted guilt in a scheme to evade United States national security laws.

Dali Bagrou pled guilty in U.S. District Court to Conspiracy, while his company, World Mining and Oil Supply of Dacula, pled guilty to Violation of the Export Control Reform Act, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

The plea subjects Bagrou to a statutory sentence of up to five years in prison and substantial financial penalties, followed by up to three years of supervised release, while the company is subject to a sentence of up to five years’ probation, along with significant fines and financial restitution. As part of his plea, Bagrou also agreed to forfeit a home purchased with illicit proceeds; the Atlanta-area residence is valued at about $800,000.

“The conspirators in this case were attempting to enrich themselves by evading trade sanctions put in place to protect the national security of the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “Thanks to outstanding effort by our law enforcement partners, these defendants are now being held accountable for their violations of the law.”

As described in court documents and testimony in USA v. World Mining and Oil Supply et. al., the conspiracy began when an unnamed Russian government-controlled business began working with with Oleg Vladislavovich Nikitin, general director of KS Engineering, a St. Petersburg, Russia-based energy company, in 2016 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 unless a license is first obtained.

Nikitin admitted that he and another KSE employee, Anton Cheremukhin, conspired with Gabrielle Villone, Villone’s company GVA, and Villone’s business partner Bruno Caparini, to obtain the turbine on their behalf. Villone, Caprini and GVA then employed the services of Bagrou and WMO 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 the turbine would be used by a U.S. company in and around Atlanta.

Nikitin, Villone, and Bagrou all were arrested in Savannah in 2019 while attempting to complete the illegal transaction. Villone currently is serving a 28-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to Conspiracy, while the other named defendants await sentencing after pleading guilty.  

“Special Agents of the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement will aggressively enforce Russia sectoral sanctions violations and any attempt to procure U.S origin goods in violation of U.S. export laws,” said Ariel Joshua Leinwand, Special Agent in Charge of OEE’s Atlanta Office. “The substantial penalties from this guilty plea should serve as a deterrent to those seeking to engage in illegal export activities.”

“The FBI and our partners will always make threats to our national security a top priority, and this conspiracy was a direct threat,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This was a methodical plan to undercut United States sanctions to put our goods in the hands of actors who are a direct threat to our national security.”

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 U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer G. Solari and Steven H. Lee are prosecuting the case, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Xavier A. Cunningham, Section Chief of the Asset Forfeiture Recovery Unit.

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