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Netherlands also prosecutes for exports to Syria

June 23, 2019

This article was translated by Syrian Archive and originally appeared in Knack

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In 2018 Knack and Syrian Archive revealed that between 2014 and 2016 three Belgian companies had exported dozens of tonnes of isopropanol and acetone to Syria from the port of Antwerp. Since 2013 a licence is required for such an export. EU member states are not allowed to deliver such a license if there is “reasonable grounds to believe that the chemicals can be used for “internal repression” or for the “manufacture of products” that could be used for that purpose.

Although the necessary export licenses were lacking, Belgian Customs had allowed all exports to pass through. The companies stressed that the shipments were destined for customers with no link to the Syrian regime. Last Friday, the Antwerp Court of Appeal pronounced severe penalties for those involved. The managing director of A.A.E. Chemie Trading from Kalmthout was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence of one year. The judge spoke of “very dangerous and militarily sensitive products” and called the facts “serious.” The judgment also stated that the customs verifiers had carried out their checks “totally inadequate, ineffective, or not (at all).”

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, the public prosecutors office which specialises in complex fraud and environmental cases, Functioneel Parket, decided to subpoena a Rotterdam wholesaler and two managers in a similar export case.

This was confirmed by spokeswoman Marieke van der Molen in a statement to Knack: “The accusation is that in November 2016 suspects sold over 38 tonnes of acetone and exported it to a person in Syria via the port of Antwerp. It is alleged that the company did not apply for a licence beforehand, which is in violation of the European sanctions against Syria. In addition, the company and its managers are being charged with the export of more than 89 tonnes of acetone via a detour - Russia - to Syria in 2017. Again without permit.”

“The sanctions were applied in connection with ‘brutal violation of human rights by the regime in Syria,’ as can be read in the European regulation,” says van der Molen. “By exporting chemicals without a licence, these [sanctions] are undermined and the government is deprived of the opportunity to control where the products go. That’s serious, that’s why the government is taking action.”

The targeted company, Aromatics Rotterdam (formerly: Gapuma Aromatics), was deregistered from the Dutch trade register at the end of 2019. One of the two managers is the managing director of A.A.E. Chemie. His lawyer states in Knack the man, who has moved from Belgium to Lebanon, has no comment. The other manager, who has nothing to do with the Belgian isopropanol case, reacts that he ‘always, without any restraint, fully cooperated fully with the investigation of the public prosecutor’s office’ in the Netherlands.

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