What you need to know
- 10 former and current employees of Russian airline Aeroflot have been charged over smuggling.
- The scheme saw $50 million worth of electronic goods shipped from the U.S. to Russia.
- Devices included Apple iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches.
10 Aeroflot employees (former and current) have been charged over a scheme that saw $50 million worth of stolen electronic smuggled from the U.S. to Russia
The US has announced charges against 10 people in connection to a plot that it says used current and former Aeroflot Airlines crew members to smuggle $50 million worth of stolen electronics to Russia. The State Department has revoked 113 visas of Aeroflot employees in connection with the allegations.
An investigation by the FBI, US customs, and the NYPD, as well as other agencies, has resulted in 10 defendants being charged with smuggling stolen electronics worth a total of $50 million into Russia from the U.S. According to the report, the devices included Apple iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. A further 113 visas of Aeroflot employees have been revoked in connection with the allegations.
The Department of Justice stated "As alleged, the defendants were members of an international smuggling ring that used a network of operators here and in Russia to circumvent US export laws and regulations." An inspection of crew luggage reportedly uncovered "millions of dollars worth" of electronic devices, many of which were said to have been stolen. From the DOJ:
As set forth in the government's court filings, the defendants allegedly engaged in a scheme to export over $50 million worth of electronic devices, including Apple iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches, from the United States to Russia. The defendants allegedly carried out this scheme by smuggling cash and merchandise via airline passengers, including current and former Aeroflot Airlines employees. Upon receiving instructions from defendant Daibagya, a resident of Russia, Aeroflot Airlines crew members and others travelled to the United States to pick up the electronic devices. Defendants Asadov, Sokhonchuk, Perevoznikov and Shadkhin, together with others in the United States, had obtained the devices, many of which had been stolen, to be sent to Russia without the required export authorizations. During the investigation, searches of luggage belonging to various Aeroflot crew members and other couriers revealed millions of dollars of electronic devices. Occasionally, defendants Daibagya and Saidov smuggled the devices themselves. For example, between August 2019 and December 2019, Daibagya took four trips from the United States transporting over 1,000 Apple products valued at over $1 million, and on October 5, 2019, Saidov carried nine suitcases containing 235 Apple products with an estimated value of about $250,000.
All but one of the defendants were resident in New York.