France Delays Extraditing Greek Accused of Smuggling Military Tech to Russia

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A French court requested further guarantees from the United States authorities before extraditing a Greek businessman wanted by the US for alleged involvement in smuggling sensitive technologies to the Russian military

A French court on Wednesday asked the US authorities to guarantee adequate treatment for Nikos Bogonikolos, a Greek businessman, before extraditing him to face charges of conspiracy and smuggling sensitive technologies used in quantum computing and nuclear testing to help the Russian military.

The French court gave a one-month deadline to the US to send a guarantee specifying the maximum possible jail sentence that Bogonikolos could receive and promising that he will receive the appropriate treatment for his health problems.

Bogonikolos’s lawyer, Nikos Zindros, told BIRN that according to EU law, one of the conditions for someone to be extradited to another state is a guarantee that the penalties imposed will be proportionate to the defendant’s actions.

The sentence that Bogonikolos could face in the US amounts to over 100 years in jail. The French court asked the US to guarantee the sentence will not exceed 20 years.

Bogonikolos was arrested in Paris in May on a US warrant. He remains in custody pending the resolution of the extradition proceedings.

Bogonikolos is president of the Aratos Group, a collection of defence and technology companies in the Netherlands and Greece. Aratos procures sensitive equipment for tactical battlefield conditions as well as components with applications in space-based and cryptographic communications.

The US Attorney’s Office claims that since 2017, the Greek businessman has been involved in smuggling US-origin military and dual-use technologies to Russia in violation of US law.

“As alleged, while ostensibly operating as a defence contractor for NATO and other ally countries, the defendant and his Aratos Group were double dealing, helping to fuel Russia’s war effort and their development of next generation weapons,” US attorney Breon Peace said in a statement in May.

The US Attorney’s Office claims that Serniya Engineering and Sertal LLC, Moscow-based companies that operate under the direction of Russian intelligence services, were the end users of Aratos’ items: advanced electronics and sophisticated testing equipment used in quantum cryptography and nuclear weapons testing, and tactical battlefield equipment.

Bogonikolos denies the allegations, insisting that the items were to be used by Aratos.

The US Treasury Department and Department of Commerce imposed sanctions on Serniya due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling them “instrumental to the Russian Federation’s war machine”.

The French court on October 4 also asked the US for further clarifications of the facts given to support the charges of conspiracy, criminal organisation and money-laundering against Bogonikolos, as it said the ones provided were not enough to support the charges.

Source : Balkaninsight