Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Illegally Exporting Aircraft Tech to Russia

A businessman in Kansas has admitted that he violated money laundering and export control laws when he exported aviation electronics that were made in the U.S. to Russia both before and after the country invaded Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice said that 56-year-old Douglas Edward Robertson pleaded guilty to being involved in “a years-long conspiracy to circumvent U.S. export laws by filing false forms with the U.S. government and, after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, continuing to sell and and export sophisticated and controlled avionics equipment to customers in Russia without the required licenses from the U.S. Department of Commerce.”

Roberts was arrested in March of last year. He used to work for KanRus Trading Company Inc. as its vice president.

According to the DOJ statement, Robertson admitted that he conspired with other people to smuggle the avionics into Russia and some other countries from 2000 through his arrest in March 2023. 

The group of people filed false forms with the U.S. government, and didn’t file other export forms that are typically required. The DOJ said the suspects “lied about the exports’ value, end users and end destinations.”

The DOJ made public two of Robertson’s co-conspirators — both former officials with KanRus.

One is Cyril Gregory Buyanovsky, who was once the owner and president of the company and is from Kansas. The other is Oleg Chistyakov, who also goes by Olegs Citsjakovs, who served as a broker for the company and is Latvian.

The DOJ said in its statement that, in 2021, the threesome “smuggled a repaired Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) to [Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB] by removing the FSB sticker from the device before sending the device to a U.S. company to be repaired and then exporting the TCAS back to the FSB in Russia.”

At the time, the FSB was under sanctions from the U.S. for its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, the DOJ said. 

According to the DOJ’s statement, Robertson admitted that, along with the co-conspirators, he continued to export the avionics even after Russia invaded Ukraine in February of 2022.

He also admitted that they facilitated this illegal business by lying to the U.S. government as well as suppliers in the U.S. They then used intermediary shipping companies as well as bank accounts in many foreign countries.

Many of the people and entities involved in this scheme had been sanctioned by the U.S. in December of 2023.

Robertson’s sentencing is scheduled for October 3. In total, the DOJ said he could face up to 65 years behind bars — five years for the conspiracy, 20 years for each of the export control violations, and 20 for the money laundering violation.

Buyanovsky pleaded guilty last December, according to the DOJ, agreeing to forfeit $50,000 as well as more than $450,000 worth of avionics accessories and equipment.