Two divers — one of whom was documentary filmmaker Rob Stewart’s dive buddy on the day the latter died in 2017 — will receive their sentences next month following their convictions for trying to smuggle closed-circuit rebreathers to Libya.
Peter Sotis, who was Stewart’s dive buddy on that fateful day, and Emilie Voissem were convicted of participating in a scheme to cause the illegal export of rebreather diving equipment to Libya in August 2016, according to the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security:
“Because of these enhanced capabilities, rebreathers have a dual use, with both civilian and military applications, and are specifically included on the Commerce Control List, which is the list of dual-use items that are export-controlled. Such restricted items require a DOC-BIS license if the rebreathers are to be exported to any countries with national security concerns, such as Libya.”
The Commerce Department added:
“The defendants were warned that it was illegal to export the items to Libya without a license and they willfully attempted to export those items after receiving an instruction from a Department of Commerce special agent that such items were detained and not to be exported while a license determination was pending. The exhibits and testimony at trial showed that the defendants lied to and misled Ramas LLC, a shipping company in Virginia, about what the agent had told them and about whether the rebreathers had a military use. Testimony at trial also showed that Sotis threatened a government witness not to cooperate with the federal investigation.”
Sotis and Voissem were both convicted of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), attempted violation of the IEEPA and smuggling.
The two are scheduled to be sentenced on January 6th, 2022 and face a maximum penalty of up to 35 years in prison and US$1.5 million (~€1.3 million) in fines.