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Florida-based diving equipment expert charged with illegal exports to Libya

The U.S. Justice Department said Peter Sotis, former owner of Florida-based Add Helium, is accused of smuggling rebreather equipment without an export license to the war-torn country.

Florida diving expert Peter Sotis was charged on Oct. 29 with attempting to smuggle rebreather equipment to Libya without a U.S. export license. [Photo Credit: Shutterstock]

A Delray Beach, Florida, man was arrested by federal agents Oct. 29 on an indictment of conspiring to violate U.S. export control regulations by illegally shipping scuba rebreather gear to Libya, the Justice Department announced.

Peter Sotis, who formerly owned Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based dive equipment company Add Helium, is charged with smuggling, as well as attempting to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

According to the Justice Department, Sotis and an unnamed co-conspirator at Add Helium arranged for the transfer of the gear to a freight forwarder for export to Libya in the summer of 2016, despite “being informed by a Commerce agent that the items could not be exported while a license determination was pending.” The shipment was seized in Europe.

The rebreather gear requires a Commerce Department export license due to its potential military applications. A rebreather absorbs carbon dioxide exhaled by a scuba diver and recycles it for continued breathing.

Sotis, 55, had his first court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge John J. O’Sullivan in Miami on Oct. 30. He is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 13.

Sotis, a recognized advanced rebreather diving expert, was reportedly with Canadian documentary filmmaker Rob Stewart at the time of Stewart’s death during underwater filming along the Florida Keys in February 2017.

Allegations that Sotis had violated U.S. export control regulations by arranging to ship high-end rebreather equipment to Libya without a Commerce Department export license became increasingly public after Stewart’s drowning.

The Miami Herald reported on March 3, 2017, that Sotis was by then the subject of a lawsuit by his former business partner, Shawn Robotka, who alleged that he warned Sotis that shipping the rebreather equipment to Libya was prohibited without a U.S. export license.

Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.