The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s office in Miami. (Photographer: Richard Sheinwald / Bloomberg News.)

Russia Says FBI Arrested Russian Citizen on Pacific Island

(Bloomberg) -- Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the FBI arrested a Russian citizen in the Northern Mariana Islands, a Pacific territory overseen by the U.S.

The ministry said Dmitry Makarenko was taken to Florida, although there’s nothing in U.S. court records to show he has arrived there. Makarenko was indicted on 2017 charges related to money laundering and the export of defense items, according to U.S. court documents.

The Russian Embassy in Washington learned of Makarenko’s detention from his relatives, the ministry said in a statement Saturday on its website. Makarenko was detained on Saipan with his wife, children and parents as they landed at the airport on Dec. 29, the ministry said.

The Russian Embassy in Washington is seeking access to Makarenko, and the ministry is demanding an explanation for the arrest. The U.S. courts’ electronic filing network, Pacer, identifies the man as Dmitrii Makarenko.

A U.S. court in Miami indicted Makarenko in June 2017 on charges of conspiracy to export defense items without a license, attempting to export such items, and money laundering, according to documents on the electronic filing site. The activities in question took place from April to November 2013, the documents showed.

Russia Says FBI Arrested Russian Citizen on Pacific Island

Night-Vision Scopes

Documents at the time of indictment said Makarenko, who the U.S. said lived in the Pacific city of Vladivostok, would order items such as night-vision scopes -- which are subject to a license -- and have them shipped to an associate in Florida, Vladimir Nevidomy, who then sent them on to Makarenko, sometimes concealed in household goods shipments.

Nevidomy, a Ukrainian-born naturalized American, pleaded guilty in 2018 on an arms export charge and separate passport-fraud charges related to a “birth tourism” operation he attempted to set up for pregnant Russian women to have their children in the U.S. He’s serving time in a federal prison in South Carolina.

Saipan, where Makarenko was apprehended, is also a major birth-tourism hot spot, which attracts many Chinese parents looking to establish U.S. citizenship for their children.

Former Marine Arrested

Earlier this week, Russian authorities detained an American, Paul Whelan, in Russia on suspicion of espionage. Whelan, a former Marine who is the director of global security for Michigan-based auto-parts supplier BorgWarner Inc., was arrested “during an espionage operation,” Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, said on Dec. 31.

Whelan’s detention came two weeks after Maria Butina, a Russian gun enthusiast, pleaded guilty in the U.S. to conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent.

Moscow and NATO countries have routinely conducted spy exchanges in the past, including the swap of 10 Russian sleeper agents for four alleged double agents in 2010.

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