A two-count indictment was unsealed yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging Vladimir Jovancic, a Bosnian national, with obstructing justice and assisting escape for his role in helping Artem Uss flee from Italy to Russia following an Italian court ruling that Uss would be extradited to the United States. Uss had previously been charged in United States v. Orekhov et al. with heading a global scheme to smuggle millions of dollars in sensitive military and dual-use technologies and oil from Venezuela to sanctioned Russian oligarchs and companies. Jovancic was arrested yesterday in the Republic of Croatia and will be arraigned in the Eastern District of New York at a future date.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Lisa O. Monaco, United States Deputy Attorney General, James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the charges.
“As alleged, this defendant brazenly helped Artem Uss escape justice on an indictment charging Uss for his actions in fueling Russia’s war in Ukraine, evading sanctions and enabling oligarchs,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “I want to thank our partners in Italy for their valuable assistance and support. We will continue to work together to make sure everyone involved in this flagrant scheme to obstruct justice is held accountable.”
United States Attorney Peace also thanked the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement, New York Field Office, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, Task Force Kleptocapture Milan Prosecutor’s Office (Procura della Repubblica presso il Tribunale di Milano), the Carabinieri, the Ministry of Justice, and Croatian authorities for their assistance.
“The defendant allegedly helped a Kremlin crony jump bail in order to evade justice—but now finds himself captured by the long arm of U.S. law enforcement,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “This case demonstrates the reach of the Department of Justice and further exposes the criminal networks propping up the Russian regime as it wages its unlawful and unprovoked war in Ukraine.”
“Vladimir Jovancic was arrested yesterday for allegedly orchestrated Artem Uss’s escape from Italy by cutting off his ankle monitor and smuggling him through multiple countries. The action yesterday is a stark reminder – if you interfere with U.S. legal proceedings anywhere around the world, the FBI will find you, we will arrest you, and we will bring you to justice. Artem Uss remains a fugitive, no matter how often he leverages connections with criminal groups in Europe he is only temporarily evading imprisonment; we are confident that today’s reward announcement will aid in bringing an end to Uss’s transient criminality and he will soon find himself back in U.S. custody. The FBI and our international partners will continue to work together to thwart attempts to evade sanctions imposed against Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Smith.
As alleged in the indictment and other court filings, Uss is the son of Alexander Uss, the governor of Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Krai region and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin. Uss has ownership interests in several Russian companies in Krasnoyarsk Krai and elsewhere, as well as a senior position with a subsidiary of Rosneft, a sanctioned Russian state-controlled oil conglomerate. Uss also had several significant holdings in Italy, including a luxury hotel in Sardinia, a vineyard and other real estate.
Uss and his business partner, Yury Orekhov, orchestrated a transnational fraud, smuggling and money laundering operation under the umbrella of Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH (NDA GmbH), a privately held industrial equipment and commodity trading company located in Hamburg, Germany. Uss and Orekhov each owned fifty percent of NDA GmbH. Using NDA GmbH as a front company, Uss and Orekhov sourced and purchased sensitive military and dual-use technologies from U.S. manufacturers, including advanced semiconductors and microprocessors used in fighter aircraft, missile systems, smart munitions, radar, satellites, and other space-based military applications. These items were shipped to Russian end users, including sanctioned companies that serviced Russia’s defense sector. Some of the types of electronic components obtained through the criminal scheme have been found in Russian weapons platforms seized on the battlefield in Ukraine. Uss and Orekhov also used NDA GmbH as a front to smuggle hundreds of millions of barrels of oil from Venezuela to Russian and Chinese purchasers, including a Russian aluminum company controlled by a sanctioned oligarch and the world’s largest oil refining, gas and petrochemical conglomerate based in Beijing, People’s Republic of China.
Uss was apprehended in Milan, Italy on October 17, 2022, pursuant to a provisional arrest request from the United States. Following his arrest, and over the objection of both Italian and U.S. prosecutors, Uss was released on bail to home detention at his Milan residence with electronic monitoring. On March 21, 2023, the Italian court approved Uss’ extradition to the United States. The next day, on March 22, 2023, Uss escaped from home detention and fled Italy, ultimately arriving in Russia, with the assistance of several individuals, including Vladimir Jovancic.
The investigation into Uss’ escape revealed that, in or about January 2023, Jovancic and other individuals affiliated with a Serbian organized crime group were recruited by Uss to help him flee to Russia in the event extradition was granted. Jovancic met Uss’ wife at a hotel in Milan, Italy, where they planned for Jovancic to deliver groceries to Uss’ residence in Milan as a pretext so that Jovancic’s presence would not raise suspicion if an escape was necessary. Uss’ wife also provided Jovancic with a cell phone and a 10,000 euro deposit for his services. Jovancic was later provided with a keycard to directly access Uss’ residence.
On the day of Uss’ escape, following the Italian court’s decision to extradite Uss to the United States, Jovancic and several other coconspirators went to Uss’ residence. Once there, Jovancic escorted Uss into a car and provided Uss with bolt cutters. Uss used the bolt cutters to remove his electronic ankle monitor and throw the monitoring device out the window. Jovancic and his coconspirators then drove Uss across the border into Slovenia. Over the next several days, Jovancic and his coconspirators shuttled Uss through Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina before crossing into Serbia, where Uss paid Jovancic an additional 40,000 euro before boarding a plane to Russia.
If convicted, Jovancic faces a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment. The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
In conjunction with yesterday’s arrest, the State Department announced a reward offer of up to $7 million under the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Uss.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section. Assistant United States Attorney Artie McConnell is in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Scott A. Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 23-CR-430 (RPK)