April 29, 2024

DOJ charges 10 individuals with U.S. sanctions and export controls violations

The U.S. Department of Justice recently unsealed an indictment charging 10 defendants for their alleged roles in a sanctions evasion scheme that began shortly after the United States sanctioned Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (“PdVSA”), in January 2019.  The defendants, who worked for PdVSA, Costa Rica-based Novax Group SA, or Aerofalcon SL, a Spanish company, at the time of the alleged offenses, were charged with conspiracy to unlawfully export goods to PdVSA.  The defendants associated with Novax and Aerofalcon were also charged with submitting false or misleading export information and smuggling of goods.  George Clemente Semerene Quintero, PdVSA’s head of logistics, procurement and warehousing, was arrested on April 19, 2024 upon his arrival at the Miami International Airport.

According to the indictment, the defendants conspired to procure millions of dollars’ worth of aircraft parts from U.S. companies for PdVSA’s aircraft fleet without first obtaining the required license or authorization from the Office of Foreign Assets Control.  Federal prosecutors alleged that, between January 2019 and December 2021, the defendants violated U.S. sanctions and export control laws by providing false and misleading information to U.S. companies in order to conceal the true destination and end-user of the parts by having them exported to third parties in other countries, including Novax and Aerofalcon.

In November 2023, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) added Novax and Aerofalcon to the Entity List.  BIS is currently investigating this case.

DOJ Press Release | Indictment | Docket Entry –  Minute Order (Arraignment)