U.S. Charges Russians, Syrians With Violating U.S. Sanctions

The United States has charged five employees of Russia’s Sovfracht shipping company and three Syrians with supplying Syria with jet fuel in violation of U.S. sanctions.

An indictment announced by the U.S. Justice Department late on June 12 also charged the eight people with laundering millions of dollars by wiring dollars to sanctioned entities in Syria without obtaining a Treasury license to do so.

The five Russian nationals are identified as Ivan Okorokov, Ilya Loginov, Karen Stepanyan, Aleksei Konkov, and Liudmila Shmelkova. All are Sovfracht employees.

The three Syrians are Yaser Naser, Farid Bitar, and Gabriel Bitar. Naser worked on behalf of Sovfracht in Syria to coordinate its business there, while the others are petroleum inspectors at Port Banias, Syria.

The indictment alleges that the defendants used vessels owned by Transpetrochart Co. Ltd., a Russian-based company that owned the petroleum tankers Mukhalatka and Yaz, to transship jet fuel and other items surreptitiously to Syria.

All eight defendants were charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. They face years in prison, financial penalties, and forfeitures if convicted.

The Justice Department did not return a call seeking comment on the current whereabouts of the defendants and when they would face the charges.

The purpose of U.S. sanctions on Syria is to thwart Syria’s attempts to obtain weapons of mass destruction, the department said.

With reporting by dpa and TASS