Bosnia And Herzegovina National Arrested For Aiding Escape Of Russian Defendant

By

A two-count indictment was unsealed Monday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging Vladimir Jovancic, 52, a Bosnia and Herzegovina national who resides in Serbia, with obstructing justice and assisting escape from custody. Jovancic was arrested on Dec. 4 in the Republic of Croatia. In a related operation, Italian authorities separately arrested a second suspect in Italy on Dec. 4.

As alleged, Jovancic is one of several individuals who helped Artem Uss, a defendant in United States. v. Orekhov et al., flee from Italy to Russia following an Italian court ruling that Uss would be extradited to the United States to face charges. Uss is charged 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.

“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.”   

“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,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York. “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.” 

“The defendant’s flagrant disregard for the rule of law has not gone unanswered. This indictment and arrest demonstrate the FBI’s continued focus on holding accountable those who assist criminals attempting to evade U.S. law, regardless of where they may try to hide,” said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate. “The FBI, along with our international partners, will continue to aggressively investigate, pursue, and prosecute those who facilitate corrupt practices that place our nation and our institutions at risk.”

“Today’s actions are a warning to anyone who is thinking about unlawfully aiding sanctioned Russian elites and their enablers,” said Co-Director of Task Force KleptoCapture David Lim.  “If you break our laws, we will use every available tool and leverage our strong international partnerships to pursue you until you are brought to justice.”   

Concurrent with this law enforcement action, the State Department announced a reward offer of up to $7 million under the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program (TOCRP) for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Artem Aleksandrovich Uss.

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, allegedly 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 50% 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 Oct. 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, the Italian court approved Uss’ extradition to the United States. The next day, 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, Jovancic and several other co-conspirators 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 co-conspirators then drove Uss across the border in Slovenia. Over the next several days, Jovancic and his co-conspirators 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 penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *