In two separate indictments unsealed yesterday, Hans Maria De Geetere, 61, of Knokke-Heist, Belgium, is charged with crimes related to a years-long scheme to unlawfully export sensitive, military-grade technology from the United States to end users located in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation.
Concurrent with the unsealing, authorities in Belgium, in coordination with the FBI’s Legal Attaché Office in Brussels, Belgium, executed search warrants and arrested De Geetere and others for questioning on Dec. 5 in connection with a Belgian investigation into De Geetere’s global illicit procurement scheme.
In addition, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added De Geetere and his companies, Knokke-Heist Support Management Corporation and European Trading Technology BV, to the BIS Entity List and the OFAC Specially Designated and Blocked Person (SDN) List for acquiring and illicitly diverting U.S.-origin electronic components used in missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare receivers, and military radar on behalf of parties in the PRC and Russia.
“As alleged, Hans Maria De Geetere orchestrated multiple smuggling schemes to unlawfully re-export advanced U.S. technologies to China and Russia,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The Justice Department is committed to working with partners, including through our leadership of the Disruptive Technology Strike Force, to hold accountable those who violate U.S. export control laws, and place personal profit over the security of the United States and our allies. We are grateful to the Belgian authorities for their coordination with U.S. law enforcement as they work to hold the defendant accountable under Belgian law.”
“Hans De Geetere allegedly acquired and illicitly diverted U.S.-origin electronic components to China and Russia that can be used in missiles, drones, and military radar,” said Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod. “These coordinated actions, which include the unsealing of federal indictments against De Geetere, his arrest abroad, and additions to our Entity List, demonstrate our commitment to cutting off the flow of critical U.S. electronics to the PRC and Russia.”
“These indictments of Hans Maria De Geetere highlight years of deceit and deception for the benefit of the governments of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation,” said Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “These charges demonstrate the commitment of the FBI and our partners to coordinate and make the world safer, together, by preventing the illegal transfer of military-use technology to our adversaries.”
U.S. v. De Geetere et al., Eastern District of Texas
According to court documents in the Eastern District of Texas, between March 2016 and February 2018, De Geetere and co-defendant Eddy Johan Coopmans, 62, of Ponte Verda, Florida, conspired to illegally smuggle from the United States export-controlled field programmable gate array (FGPA) circuits to Russia and short-wave infrared surveillance (SWIR) cameras to the PRC. As alleged, the defendants wired partial payments totaling over $1.2 million in an attempt to acquire these items. Coopsmans pleaded guilty to the conspiracy on Oct. 5, 2022, and is pending sentencing.
“As alleged, Mr. De Geetere conspired with others to violate U.S. export controls and illegally smuggle sensitive American-made technologies to Russia and the PRC,” said U.S. Attorney Damien M. Diggs for the Eastern District of Texas. “This indictment should be an example that the Eastern District of Texas will aggressively pursue and prosecute those — no matter where they are in the world — who seek to avoid U.S. export laws to supply Russia and the PRC with microelectronics that can be used for nefarious purposes.”
U.S. v. De Geetere, District of Oregon
Separately, according to court documents in the District of Oregon, between April 2021 and August 2023, De Geetere attempted to illegally procure for export to the PRC controlled accelerometers valued at more than $930,000. Accelerometers are electronic devices that measure the vibration, tilt and acceleration of motion of a structure and are often used in aerospace and military systems. During an investigation into De Geetere’s activities, he falsely told a BIS agent that the accelerometers were intended for export to Belgium, whereas in truth, he sought to obtain them for end users in the PRC.
“Export control laws and regulations serve an important role in protecting our national security and this case demonstrates our commitment to holding individuals accountable wherever they reside,” said U.S. Attorney Natalie Wight for the District of Oregon. “We urge anyone with information about violations of export control laws to contact OEE and the FBI immediately.”
In the Eastern District of Texas, De Geetere is charged with one count of conspiring to smuggle goods and one count of conspiring to launder funds. He is further charged with three counts of making false statements and one count of smuggling goods in the District of Oregon. If convicted, he faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison for conspiracy to smuggle goods and for each count of making false statements, 10 years in prison for smuggling of goods, and 20 years in prison for conspiracy to launder funds.
The case in the Eastern District of Texas was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Dallas and the FBI’s Dallas Field Office, with assistance from BIS’s Office of Export Enforcement (OEE), Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Services (DCIS), the Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern District of Texas are prosecuting the case with assistance from Trial Attorney Derek Shugert of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES).
The case in the District of Oregon was investigated by OEE, with assistance from the FBI Portland Field Office and HSI Oregon. Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Nyhus for the District of Oregon is prosecuting the case, with assistance from CES Trial Attorney Derek Shugert.
These actions were coordinated through the Disruptive Technology Strike Force, an interagency law enforcement strike force co-led by the Departments of Justice and Commerce designed to target illicit actors, protect supply chains, and prevent critical technology from being acquired by authoritarian regimes and hostile nation-states. Under the leadership of the Assistant Attorney General for National Security and the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement, the Strike Force leverages tools and authorities across the U.S. Government to enhance the criminal and administrative enforcement of export control laws.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.