Man accused of smuggling banned tech to Russia and North Korea

A Russian citizen has been charged with smuggling banned devices to military intelligence agencies in his home country and North Korea, using parts sourced from the US that were prohibited from being sold to the rogue nations.

It is alleged that since 2017, Ilya Balakaev, 47, of Moscow, Russia, used Radiotester, a publicly listed limited liability company he owned, to enter into contractual business with intelligence agency the FSB, agreeing to repair and supply signal generators and spectrum analyzers.

Such technology is used in counterintelligence operations to detect surveillance bugs and in regular communications, said the US Department of Justice (DoJ), announcing the unsealing of the case against Balakaev by a federal court in New York on February 24.

It claims that because the device parts were not readily available in Russia, Balakaev created a network of US suppliers to help him repair the equipment for his alleged paymasters overseas. Balakaev faces up to 75 years in prison if found guilty.

The DoJ further alleges that Balakaev worked closely with Military Unit 43753, responsible for cryptology and communication security at the FSB, Russia’s most prominent secret service agency.

He is also accused of providing banned technology to a government official working for North Korea, widely regarded as a key ally of Russia.

The DoJ alleges that Balakaev made 14 trips to the US to secure more than 40 devices, and was contracted with the First Secretary of the North Korean Embassy to the Russian Federation in Moscow, “to obtain hazardous gas detectors and software from the US for the benefit of the North Korean government.”

Balakaev’s case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US Department of Commerce, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and the DoJ’s National Security and Cybercrime Section.

“The defendant violated US law by procuring, smuggling, and repairing counterintelligence operation devices for the benefit of Russia’s secret police and the North Korean government,” claimed US Attorney Breon Peace. “Today’s indictment demonstrates our office’s commitment to vigorously prosecute those who evade sanctions for a profit, both for their wallet and for Russia as they continue their aggression against Ukraine.”

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