On Tuesday, Russian Roman Kvinikadze pleaded guilty in federal court in Wyoming to charges that he attempted to export thermal imaging weapon sights to Russia without a required license from the U.S. State Department. Last month, we reported on Kvinikadze’s arrest and the charges brought against him as well as the Russian government’s criticism of the entire matter. Kvinikadze’s plea is not a surprising development since, as we alluded to last month, an entrapment defense even under the most favorable circumstances is difficult to prove.
What is surprising, however, is how soon Kvinikadze may be leaving U.S. federal prison. The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the federal judge in Kvinikadze’s case said “immigration authorities intend to send Kivinikadze back to Russia.” As we said last month, Kvinikadze’s best defense was not going to be in the courtroom but through diplomatic channels plied with the Russian government’s support. Unlike a month ago, when the Russian human rights commissioner publicly decried Kvinikadze’s arrest, the Russian government has been quiet since Kvinikadze entered his guilty plea.
If Kvinikadze in fact returns shortly to Russia, the Department of Homeland Security, the agency which conducted the investigation into Kvinikadze, may be reconsidering the effectiveness of operations, like the one used against Kvinikadze, that engage foreign persons online to arrange for unlawful export transactions and entice them into travel to the United States to be arrested. At a minimum, would-be U.S. export control violators abroad ought to think twice about meeting a potential business partner for the first time in the United States. But more importantly, foreign governments may begin to join Russia in denouncing such U.S. policing of its laws around the world. One of the aspects that have made U.S. investigations and law enforcement activities abroad of FCPA violations so successful in recent years is the U.S. cooperation with foreign law enforcement. Without such cooperation, the United States may see more guilty foreign criminals going home.