us-sanctions 27 May 2021

‘A tangled web of deceit’: Italian company pleads guilty to Russia oilfield conspiracy

The US Department of Justice has said that an Italian company, US GVA International Oil and Gas Services (‘GVA’), has pleaded guilty to violating the Export Control Act, the plea now subjecting the company ‘to a sentence of up to five years’ probation, along with significant fines and financial restitution.’

It said: ‘GVA owner Gabrielle Villone currently is serving a 28-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy in the case, USA v. World Mining and Oil Supply et. al.

‘As described in court documents and testimony, the conspiracy began when an unnamed Russian government-controlled business contracted with Oleg Vladislavovich Nikitin,general director ofKS Engineering (KSE),a St. Petersburg, Russia-based energy company, to purchase a power turbine from a U.S.-based manufacturer for approximately $17.3 million. The Russian company intended to use the turbine on a Russian Arctic deepwater drilling platform, expressly prohibited by the U.S. Department of Commerce without first obtaining a license.

‘Nikitin and KSE previously pled guilty to a conspiracy to evade U.S. export regulations and to defraud the United States and await sentencing.

‘Nikitin admitted that he and another KSE employee, Anton Cheremukhin, conspired with Villone, GVA, and GVA employee Bruno Caparini, to obtain the turbine on their behalf. Villone, Caprini and GVA then employed the services of Dali Bagrou and World Mining and Oil Supply (WMO) of Dacula, Ga., to procure the turbine from a U.S.-based manufacturer and to have the turbine shipped overseas. The parties conspired to conceal the true end user of the turbine from both the U.S. manufacturer and the U.S. government by submitting false documentation that stated it would be used by a U.S. company in and around Atlanta.

‘Nikitin, Villone, and Bagrou all were arrested in Savannah, Ga., while attempting to complete the illegal transaction. Bagrou remains in custody pending further legal action, and with all defendants is considered innocent unless and until found guilty in court.’

Acting US Attorney David Estes said that the conspiracy ‘represents a tangled web of deceit designed to allow Russian interests to evade United States trade sanctions.’