Company managed by pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician obtained license to import heavy weaponry under Obama’s ATFSeptember 5, 2019 2:50 pm
A defense contractor managed by a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician and a Soviet-born businessman tied to the Russian mafia landed a license from the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) during the Obama Administration to import and export weapons, including machine guns and explosives, according to documents reviewed by Forensic News.
The Florida-based company, Ancovi International, is managed by Jacob Gitman, a Soviet-born entrepreneur involved in dozens of U.S. businesses, and Andrey (Andrii) Artemenko (through one of his companies), a former Ukrainian lawmaker who was scrutinized by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The purpose of the firearms license, which was first issued under President Obama’s tenure when Eric Holder was the Attorney General and has since been renewed, is not immediately clear. Holder was held in contempt of Congress by the Republican-led House for allegedly not releasing documents pertaining to the ATF’s controversial Fast and Furious operation.
The ATF license to Ancovi International remains active today.
Andrey Artemenko and Jacob Gitman
Artemenko, a former member of the Ukrainian parliament, burst onto the public scene when his involvement in a Kremlin-approved peace plan for Ukraine was revealed in early 2017. According to the New York Times, Artemenko met with President Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, and Trump’s business associate, Felix Sater, in New York shortly after Trump’s inauguration. At the meeting, Artemenko pitched a plan to remove sanctions on Russia in exchange for Russia removing its troops from Eastern Ukraine. Cohen delivered the plan directly to then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (Cohen has since denied this story). Artemenko was called to testify before a grand jury connected to Mueller in 2018.
Artemenko was also part of a group of pro-Russia lawmakers that former-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort developed and assisted in their opposition to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, according to the New York Times. Poroshenko rose to power following the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin-backed leader. Yanukovich fled to Russia following massive protests in 2014, which in part resulted from his acceptance of Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine. Poroshenko took a much tougher stance on Russia and forbade any military cooperation with the Kremlin. Artemenko and his cohorts opposed his administration.
Before serving as a lawmaker in Ukraine, Artemenko was involved in several business ventures stretching from the Middle East to Florida, according to the New York Times, and “appears to have amassed considerable wealth.” Artemenko was also on the Kyiv City Council in the mid 2000s when a series of “shady land deals” were pushed by the Council.
Gitman, whose Florida address is connected to over 80 companies, has recently come under scrutiny for his investment in an aluminum plant in Arizona. He also manages an active Panamanian company with two figures connected to the Russian mafia, as previously reported by Forensic News. The two business partners, Anatoly Golubchik and Vadim Trincher, served time in federal prison for a $100 million Russian money laundering operation run out of Trump Tower. Their charges included “racketeering, money laundering, extortion, and various gambling offenses.”
Independent journalist Patrick Simpson has written about Gitman extensively (though Forensic News does not endorse the specific language used by Simpson).
Ancovi International, incorporated in Florida in 2012, first appears in the ATF database as a licensed “Title II” firearms importer in January 2014, the first month of records stored online. The company, according to corporate documents filed with the Florida Department of State, show that Gitman and Artemenko, via his company Global Assets Inc., are the sole Managing Members of the firm.
The ATF database shows that the Title II license for Ancovi International remains active as of July 2019. A Title II license with the ATF allows Ancovi International to import and export the following weaponry (according to the NRA):
machine guns, short or “sawed-off” shotguns and rifles, and so-called “destructive devices” (including grenades, mortars, rocket launchers, large projectiles, and other heavy ordnance).
The firm’s website boasts that they have delivered hundreds of millions of rounds of ammunition to the US, a claim that has not been verified.
This experience has been on a wide variety of products from small, medium and large caliber direct fire ammunition, indirect fire artillery ammunition, guided and unguided rockets and missiles, mine clearing devices, fuzing and pyrotechnic signals and flares. Combined the team has been responsible for the successful delivery of hundreds of millions of rounds of ammunition and defense related articles to the US and allied countries around the globe.
According to the ATF, becoming a federal firearms licensee requires at least ten steps including background checks and interviews. It wasn’t immediately clear if this process was followed when the license to Ancovi International was issued. In an email, the ATF confirmed to Forensic News that Ancovi International holds an active Type 08 license, allowing it to import ammunition and firearms
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Ancovi International’s relationship with the State Department remains harder to understand. An archived version of Ancovi International’s website as of January 2016 stated:
The company holds licenses with the US Department of State, as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for the export and import of defense articles. Additionally, the company is an authorized supplier of the Qatari Ministry of Defense, along with other authorizations, certifications, licenses and approvals.
The archived website specifically states that the company had an affiliation with the United States Department of State Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. Reached by email, a State Department spokesperson would not comment on their relationship with Ancovi International. Forensic News filed a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request with the State Department regarding their relationship with Ancovi International.
Similarly, the Qatar Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request for comment.
The Registered Agent for Ancovi International is yet another holding company in which Gitman is involved, Skyway International LLC. Gitman’s business partner in that venture, according to the records, is Gennady Griaznov, a Kazakh airline executive who once leased a private plane to “Somalia’s Pirate King” Mohamed Abdi Hassan per a UN report. In 2006 Hassan was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his international crimes.
The UN obtained a photo (p. 146) of Griaznov with Hassan’s right-hand man Mohamed Moalin-Aden (or Tiiceey) in 2013. Aden was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in Hassan’s criminal operations.
On his LinkedIn profile, Artemenko claims to have served as Ancovi International’s Vice President, leaving the company in 2014 before he won his election in October. However, Florida corporate records show Artemenko remained President of Global Assets (Ancovi International’s managing member) into 2015. The title of President was transferred in 2016 to Artemenko’s wife, Oksana Kuchma. Artemenko remains the active Registered Agent for Global Assets.
Andrey Artemenko and attorneys for Jacob Gitman did not respond to our requests for comment. Information on Ancovi International appears scant. It is unclear what other business the company has done since its inception in 2012.
Ukrainian authorities stripped Artemenko of his Ukrainian citizenship in 2017 and investigated him for treason because of the Russian sanctions plan he passed to the Trump team. Politico reported that Artemenko attended the Trump inauguration. It is unclear how he acquired tickets, as ticket purchases and donations from foreigners are not permitted under U.S. law.
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