SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — A Russian émigré was arrested Wednesday on federal charges alleging he and his San Francisco-based electronics company smuggled sophisticated electrical components out of the United States which ultimately arrived in Russia in violation of U.S. export law. The charges also allege that the émigré promoted the scheme with wire transfers from foreign banks totaling more than $60 million.
Defendant Pavel Semenovich Flider, 65, was arrested in San Rafael, where he resides, on Wednesday on charges that he and his company, Trident International Corporation, LLC, which also goes by the name Flider Electronics, allegedly smuggled electronic components that could be used for military purposes through other countries into Russia, according to the U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.
The electronic components were controlled dual-use programmable computer chips that can operate in austere environments and be used in both civilian and military applications, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of California.
Flider allegedly conducted wire transfers promoting the scheme, received in San Francisco from banks located in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Cyprus, and Hong Kong, among others. Flider, a Russian national and naturalized citizen of the United States, serves as the co-owner and operator of Trident, which has an address listed on Turk Street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.
A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Flider on March 5. Flider has been charged with fifteen counts of smuggling of goods, one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering and ten counts of substantive money laundering.
The indictment was unsealed Thursday in federal court, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of California. According to the indictment, the electronic components that Flider is alleged to have procured came from U.S. companies and were then smuggled into Russia via Estonia and Finland. Furthermore, the indictment alleges that Flider and his company “knowingly submitted false and misleading export information” on official documents to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of California.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Commerce temporarily denied export privileges to Flider and his electronics company for a six-month period.
According to David W. Mills, assistant secretary of commerce for export enforcement at the U.S. Department of Commerce, in April 2013, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at San Francisco International Airport seized a shipment of programmable circuits that were being shipped from Trident to freight forwarders in Estonia and Finland.
Trident’s office manager Gennadiy Flider, in an interview with the Office of Export Enforcement, said that Trident had allegedly been doing business with a freight forwarder in Estonia for many years, Mills said.
In another interview with the Office of Export Enforcement in August 2013, both Gennadiy Flider and Pavel Flider allegedly denied shipping to Russia.
In October, another shipment from Trident was seized heading for the freight forwarder in Estonia. This time an inspection uncovered 51 uncontrolled Xilinx chips, rather than the six, which had been declared, Mills said.
In 2014, the freight forwarder in Estonia allegedly admitted to shipping Trident’s cargo on to Russia, at the request of Pavel Flider. The freight forwarder then ceased operation, according to Mills. Trident then allegedly began shipping electronic components directly to an electronics distributor in St. Petersburg, Russia.
According to the Office of Export Enforcement, beginning in May 2014 until just last week, Trident was exporting again to a freight forwarder in Finland.
Mills said the order for Trident to cease exports comes as a result of evidence demonstrating that “Trident has engaged in some known violations” and has changed its export transactions in an effort “to camouflage the actual destinations.”
Pavel Flider made his initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday morning and he is expected to remain in custody pending a formal detention hearing on Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge, the Honorable Maria-Elena James.
If convicted, Pavel Flider could face up to 20 years of imprisonment for each money laundering-related count and up to 10 years of imprisonment for each count of smuggling, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The indictment also seeks forfeiture of the defendant’s real and personal property connected to the alleged scheme, including funds that can be traced back to the alleged laundering violations.
Trident could also face fines of up to $500,000 for each money laundering count and up to $250,000 for each of the smuggling counts, as well as additional fines.