(Bloomberg) -- A Bosnian national was charged with aiding in the elaborate escape of a Russian wanted by the US in a global scheme to smuggle American semiconductors to Russia and Ukraine.
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Vladimir Jovancic was arrested in Croatia, accused by US prosecutors of helping Artem Uss flee Italy last year after his arrest there and ahead of his extradition to the US. The US has charged Uss with violating sanctions and selling sensitive technologies to Russia through intermediaries in nonsanctioned countries.
In an indictment unsealed Monday, prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, described a scheme to spring Uss from home detention in Milan after an Italian court approved his extradition. They say Jovancic used bolt cutters to help Uss remove an electronic ankle bracelet used to track him and then smuggled him out of the country.
Prosecutors said Jovancic helped Uss, whom the US called a “Kremlin crony,” flee through Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia before he reached Serbia, where he boarded a plane to Russia. His wife, who paid Jovancic €10,000 ($10,797) for his services, gave Jovancic a key card to Uss’s Italian residence to help him escape, prosecutors said.
The arrest comes as the US seeks to thwart Russia’s efforts to evade sanctions amid its war on Ukraine. Well before the war, Russia built a secret pipeline to ensure the supply of semiconductors. These tactics are now helping Russian operators rebuild dismantled networks and deceive publicly listed US tech companies, according to customs data, indictments and people familiar with the matter.
Prosecutors said Uss is the son of Alexander Uss, the governor of Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Krai region and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Jovancic, 52, is expected to be arraigned in federal court in Brooklyn at a later date, said Danielle Hass, a spokeswoman for Breon Peace, the US attorney in Brooklyn.
The case is US v. Jovancic, 23-cr-430, US District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
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