In Denmark, a fuel trading company and its chief executive officer (CEO) were convicted on Tuesday December 14 for delivering large quantities of kerosene to the Russian Air Force in Syria in a rare trial for violating the Western embargo on the country. The Odense court, where the trial had been held since October, “Established that the deliveries were objective violations of European sanctions” targeting the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.
Convicted of having sold thirty-three times, between 2015 and 2017, a total of around 172,000 tonnes of kerosene to two Russian companies, the company Dan-Bunkering and its parent company, Bunker Holding, were sentenced to a fine of 34 million crowns (4.6 million euros). These large quantities of fuel, worth nearly 90 million euros, were then delivered to Syria, where they were used to supply Russian fighter jets deployed in the country, according to Danish justice.
Bunker Holding CEO Keld Demant was given a four-month suspended prison sentence. He didn’t comment. The company’s lawyers and its manager pleaded for the acquittal, believing that they could not control the use of kerosene on the part of their clients, who were not subject to sanctions. At each of the thirty-three orders, the business manager “Should have realized that it was extremely likely that kerosene would be used by the Russian military in Syria”, however, said the court.
A “historic judgment”
The Danish company carried out the orders through its office in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, the two Russian companies had never ordered kerosene from Bunker Holding before the Russian intervention in Syria in 2015 and Mr. Demant knew that they were suppliers to the Russian army, the court noted in particular. The deliveries, which took place between October 2015 and May 2017, took place in the eastern Mediterranean, sometimes in ship-to-ship transfers. Russian customers then unloaded the cargo at the Syrian port of Baniyas, according to the court.
In this rare trial for violation of the European embargo in Syria, the prosecution had requested two years in prison against the leader of the group and 400 million crowns fine, or more than 50 million euros. Defense lawyers “Have not yet made a decision” regarding a possible appeal, Dan-Bunkering’s attorney, Jacob Skude Rasmussen, told reporters.
Asked by Agence France-Presse, prosecutor Anders Dyrvig Rechendorff said he was ” very satisfied “ and called the judgment“Historical”. “The kerosene was delivered to Syria and put on the Russian fighter jets which bombed in favor of President Assad. It is very serious and, for this reason, it is a historic judgment ”, he estimated. “Regarding Dan-Bunkering, the court considered that they were aware [de la destination finale] thirty-three deliveries from the start of this period. So, of course, I am very satisfied with the verdict ”, added the prosecutor.
European sanctions against the Syrian regime, in force since the end of 2011 and currently extended until 1is June 2022, include in particular an oil embargo and a freeze of assets held by the Central Bank of Syria in the European Union.