Belgian man charged with smuggling sanctioned military tech to Russia and China
Indictments allege plot to shift FPGAs, accelerometers, and spycams
A Belgian man has been arrested and charged for his role in a years-long smuggling scheme to export military-grade electronics from the US to Russia and China.
Belgian law enforcement detained Hans Maria De Geetere, 61, and five others for questioning on December 5. The US Justice Department also unsealed two indictments charging De Geetere and others with illegally exporting millions of dollars worth of US electronics – used in missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare receivers, and military radar – to entities in China and Russia.
The US Commerce and Treasury Departments also added De Geetere and his businesses – Knokke-Heist Support Management Corporation and European Trading Technology BV – to the BIS Entity List and the OFAC Specially Designated and Blocked Person List for moving the illicit weapons technology.
The coordinated international actions "demonstrate our commitment to cutting off the flow of critical US electronics to the PRC [People's Republic of China] and Russia," assistant secretary for export enforcement Matthew Axelrod declared in a statement.
According to one of the indictments filed in a Texas court, between March 2016 and February 2018 De Geetere and a Florida man, 62-year-old Eddy Johan Coopmans, conspired to smuggle export-controlled FPGA circuits to Russia and short-wave infrared surveillance (SWIR) cameras to China.
In total, the two men allegedly wired payments totaling more than $1.2 million to individuals that they believed could get them the devices, and then took steps to cover their tracks.
"For example, they caused false and misleading statements to be made to legitimate companies that sold FPGA Circuits and SWIR Cameras," the court documents [PDF] state. "Additionally, the defendants caused false and misleading statements to be made to government officials who regulated the export of FPGA Circuits and SWIR Cameras."
Coopmans pleaded guilty to the conspiracy in October 2022, and awaits sentencing.
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A separate indictment, filed in an Oregon court, alleges that De Geetere illegally attempted to procure accelerometers to export to China between April 2021 and August 2023. These devices, valued at more than $930,000, "play a critical role in structural testing and monitoring, impact survival tests, flight control systems, weapons and craft navigation systems, active vibration dampening, stabilization, and other systems," according to the court documents [PDF].
As part of this scheme, De Geetere falsely claimed that the end users were European organizations – including a Flemish government agency. "In truth and fact, as De Geetere then knew, he intended to re-export the accelerometers to China, including Hong Kong," the court documents allege.
The Texas indictment charged De Geetere with one count of conspiring to smuggle goods and one count of conspiring to launder funds. He's also been charged on three counts of making false statements and one count of smuggling goods in Oregon.
If convicted, he faces a maximum of five years in prison for conspiracy to smuggle goods and for each count of making false statements, ten years in prison for smuggling of goods, and 20 years in prison for conspiracy to launder funds. ®