On Tuesday, the US Justice Department filed charges against five employees of the Russian company SovFracht for supplying Syria with aviation fuel, thereby contravening the sanctions introduced by the US government against Damascus.
The Justice Department said that allegations have been brought against Ivan Okorokov, Ilya Loginov, Karen Stepanyan, Alexey Konkov and Liudmila Shemlkova at the District Court of Columbia. The SovFracht employees allegedly “conspired to violate US economic sanctions against Syria and Crimea, and making US dollar wires to Syria and to sanctioned entities in Syria without receiving a license from the US Treasury Department”.
According to US Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the case also concerns three Syrian nationals – Yaser Naser, who has worked on behalf of SovFracht in Syria, and Farid Bitar and Gabriel Bitar, petroleum inspectors at Port Banias, Syria. “The defendants allegedly conspired to defy our sanctions against Syria and Crimea,” Demers commented. “The indictment in this case demonstrates that we will vigorously investigate and prosecute violations of US economic sanctions, including the use of our financial system to promote and facilitate the activities of sanctioned entities,” he continued.
The SovFracht employees allegedly used front companies and falsified shipping records in order to ship aviation fuel to Syria, using tankers belonging to the Russian company Transpetrochart. They also “engaged in dollar transactions” through third party companies. This happened after the US Treasury Department blacklisted SovFracht “for violation of sanctions against Russia and Crimea”, banning the company from carrying out dollar transactions without authorization from the US Treasury Department even if it did not concern goods shipments to Syria. For example, on May 11, 2017, the Treasury blocked two wire transfers totaling $2.96 million for the delivery of jet fuel to Syria.
The Justice Department acknowledges that the allegations still need to be proven in court. However, the defendants may be fined and sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.
JSC SovFracht offers universal transport and logistic services, and specializes in railway oil transit with its own and rented rolling stock. The company also engages in maritime and river cargo transit and freighting, and offers brokerage services, shipping agency services, and cargo insurance.