Sunday, January 15, 2012


Those readers who have been following the story of the M/V Chariot, the St. Vincent-registered freighter that carried an estimated 35 tonnes of bullets to the Government of Syria this week,  deserve to know the backstory. The vessel, carrying munitions for Russian exporter Rosoboronexport, was boarded in Cyprus, when it was forced to make port in Limmasol for refueling, reportedly due to rough weather.

An inspection by Cypriot authorities revealed "dangerious cargo," suspected explosives, which was a violation of the EU ban on arms shipment to Syria. Cyprus is a member of the European Union.
 Unfortunately, the ship's captain disregarded Cypriot orders to divert to Turkey, and docked at Tartus, in Syria. The moment that vessel dropped anchor in an EU jurisdiction, the sanctions law was violated.

Reliable reports say that payment for the ammunition was made by Hezbollah, from Latin America, using a Venezuelan corporation, to pay for the purchase. Are you verifying the beneficial ownership of Venezuelan companies, to rule out government-controlled entities, especially in countries where governments that actively facilitate terrorist organisations ? The company involved could only have been empowered to take such action if it was controlled by the Government of Venezuela.

Remember also that the senior officers of government-controlled companies are Politically Exposed Persons, or PEPs. That means that personal bank accounts of these officers are subject to extra scrutiny and monitoring. Have you identified any corporations as government-owned ? If so, do the personal accounts of the officers exceed their probable incomes ? Government-controlled companies engaging in international business are always to be regarded as high-risk, because they may have hidden, political or geopolitical, agendas. Watch yourself with them.

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