Belgium companies sold deadly chemicals to Assad in violation of sanctions

Knack magazine reported that the companies said they were not aware that export licenses were required for the sale of chemicals to Syria.

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April 19, 2018 01:37
2 minute read.
Syrian activists inspect bodies of people they say killed by nerve gas in Damascus August 21, 2013

Bodies from Syria chemical weapons attack 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh)

 
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Antwerp’s Criminal Court has opened cases against three Flemish companies for the alleged violations of EU sanctions relating to the sale of illegal chemicals to the Syrian regime, according to a Wednesday report from the Belgium newsweekly Knack.

The magazine reported that the Belgian companies – AAE Chemie, Danmar Logistics, and the shut-down Anex Customs – exported the chemicals to the Syrian regime, which included isopropanol, a chemical that can be used in the manufacturing of sarin nerve gas. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime used sarin gas in a massive chemical attack on civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013, resulting in the deaths of 1,4000 people.

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According to Knack and the website Syrian Archive, “Belgian companies exported 96 tons of isopropanol, a sarin precursor, to Syria between 2014 and 2016.”

The joint media report said: “UN Comtrade statistics show that Belgium was the only EU member state that continued to export [iso]propanol to Syria since EU sanctions were imposed in 2013.”

The report also showed that Belgium had sold deadly chemicals to Lebanon. The criminal trial in Antwerp involving the companies is slated for May 15.

Belgium’s customs authorities filed the criminal case against the companies. The French wire service APA reported that the Belgian Finance Ministry said the criminal case involved “making false customs declaration, as the companies had not listed isopropanol on the shipping documents.” Isopropanol can also be used for paint products.

In April 2017, the US fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat Air Base site believed to have been used by Assad’s regime for the production of sarin gas in the mass murder of Syrians.

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According to a UN report, the Syrian regime murdered more than 80 people in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017.

Knack reported that the companies said they were not aware that export licenses were required for the sale of chemicals to Syria. The companies said the Belgium custom authorities did not bar any of the chemical exports to Syria.

Syrian Archive and Knack said that “according to the summons cited by court press judge Roland Cassiers, 24 shipments of sanctioned chemicals from Belgium to Syria and Lebanon took place between May 2014 and December 2016, in which 165 tons of isopropanol (69 tons to Lebanon and the remaining shipments to Syria), 219 tons of acetone, 77 tons of methanol and 21 tons of dichloromethane had been exported without the appropriate licenses.”

European companies from France and Germany have also played a role in advancing Assad’s chemical warfare.

The German company Krempel sold material to Iran’s regime that later turned up in Iranian chemical rockets in Ghouta.

The Iranian chemical missiles with the “made in Germany” material resulted in 21 injuries, including many children in January and February.

France announced in January that it had sanctioned companies as well as 25 people for aiding Syria’s chemical weapons program.

According to the French announcement, the businesspeople and companies sanctioned are based in Paris, Beirut, China and Damascus.

Germany has allowed Krempel to continue to trade with Iran and refused to disclose to The Jerusalem Post the names of dual-use deals and companies trading with the Islamic Republic.

Iran continues to be the Assad’s main military and economic sponsor during the ongoing seven-year war to wipe out opposition and rebel forces in Syria.

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