Businessman arrested for illegally exporting semiconductors to Russia

The defendant illegally transferred hundreds of thousands of semiconductors and other controlled technology to a sanctioned business tied to the Russian military and intelligence.

Ilya Kahn, 66, holding triple citizenship of the United States, Israel, and Russia, was arrested on January 17th in Los Angeles. He is alleged to have been involved in a years-long scheme to obtain and unlawfully export sensitive technology from the United States to sanctioned Russian entities.

Kahn did not acquire the necessary licenses, and the exported items were under control for national security and anti-terrorism reasons.

According to court documents, Kahn orchestrated a conspiracy via his companies – Senesys Incorporated and Sensor Design Association. The two enterprises were ostensibly dedicated to "security software development" and the testing of silicon wafers for military avionics and space applications.

His business was sanctioned by the US government in February 2022, as its clients included elements of the Russian military and the Federal Security Service (FSB).

According to court documents, Kahn is charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to violate the Export Control Reform Act (ECRA). As per the complaint, in 2019, Kahn shipped numerous microcontrollers of US origin to the sanctioned Russian business entity, Joint Stock Company Research and Development Center ELVEES (Elvees).

In 2022, he sent US-origin network interface controllers and a radio-frequency transmitter to Elvees in Russia through a Hong Kong-based shipping company.

As per the allegations, Kahn facilitated the ongoing receipt of semiconductors by Elvees from a Taiwanese manufacturer, even after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. When the Taiwanese company, which produced semiconductors designed by Elvees, declined to ship them directly to Russia, Kahn organized for the semiconductors to be first sent to the United States and then re-exported to Russia.

Additionally, Kahn used transshipment points in Hong Kong and other global locations to bypass US export laws and regulations, effectively concealing the Russian end users. Despite Elvees being added to the Entity List, Kahn persisted in collaborating with the company.

“Violations of US sanctions and export control laws that aid Russia and other hostile powers endanger our nation’s security and will be met with the full force of the Justice Department,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

If convicted, Kahn faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to violate the ECRA.

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