Five Russian businessmen and three Syrians were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on charges they conspired to violate sanctions on Syria and Crimea.
The individuals allegedly wired U.S. dollars to Syria without receiving a license from the U.S. Treasury Department. They were also accused of trying to send jet fuel to Syria, in violation of sanctions.
“The defendants allegedly conspired to defy our sanctions against Syria and Crimea, endangering both American interests in the region as well as our foreign policy and national security at home,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement.
“The U.S. sanctions on Syria and Crimea thwart Syria’s support of terrorism and its pursuit and use of weapons of mass destruction, as well as the actions of those who seek to undermine Ukraine’s democratic processes and territorial integrity.”
The suspects allegedly used front companies and falsified information in shipping records in an attempt to circumvent the sanctions.
They allegedly used vessels owned by Transpetrochart Co. Ltd., a Russian-based company that owned the petroleum tankers Mukhalatka and Yaz, to transport jet fuel and other items into Syria.
In 2016, the Office of Foreign Assets Control had blocked two wire transfers, totaling $2,585,340, for the delivery of the jet fuel to Syria.
Syria has seen a bloody war since an uprising in 2011. In 2016, the United Nations estimated that over 400,000 people had been killed as a result of the conflict. Since then, there have been no estimates on the death toll given the difficult access to Syria.
Sanctions on Syria date back to 2004, when then-President George W. Bush used an executive order to impose economic sanctions on Syria.
The sanctions prohibit the export, sale, or supply of any goods, technologies, or services from the United States to Syria.
Bush at the time cited concerns over Syria’s ties to terror as the reason for imposing the sanctions.
“The FBI takes sanctions violations extremely seriously and will not hesitate to use our full investigative resources to stop this type of alleged illegal activity,” said Special Agent in Charge Timothy M. Dunham in a statement.
“This investigation underscores the determination of the special agents and intelligence analysts who pursue those who violate United States laws, no matter where they reside.”