Defence Web on 9th April carried an article about Russian support for the Assad regime in Syria, private Russian military contractors, and a secretive airlift using civilian planes to ferry military support to Syria, which a Reuters investigation of the logistical network behind Assad’s forces has uncovered.  An Airbus seen at Rostov is said to be just one of dozens of aircraft that once belonged to mainstream European and US aviation companies, then were passed through a web of intermediary companies and offshore firms to Middle Eastern airlines subject to US sanctions – moves that Washington alleges are helping Syria bypass the sanctions.   The flights in and out of Rostov, which no organisation has previously documented, are operated by Cham Wings, a Syrian airline subject to US sanctions since 2016.  Reuters reporters staked out the Rostov airport, logged the unusual flights using publicly available flight-tracking data, searched aircraft ownership registries and conducted dozens of interviews, including a meeting at a fashionable restaurant with a former Soviet marine major on a US government blacklist.  The report claims that, in recent years, dozens of planes have been registered in Ukraine to 2 companies, Khors (on a US blacklist since 2011 for exporting aircraft to Syria) and Dart – both added to US sanctions lists in September 2017 -, that were founded by a former Soviet marine major and his onetime military comrades, according to the Ukraine national aircraft register. The planes were then sold or leased and ended up being operated by Iranian and Syrian airlines, according to the flight-tracking data.  In the past 7 years, Khors and Dart have managed to acquire or lease 84 second-hand Airbus and Boeing aircraft by passing the aircraft through layers of non-sanctioned entities, according to information collated by Reuters from national aircraft registers.  Of these 84 aircraft, at least 40 have since been used in Iran, Syria and Iraq, according to data from 3 flight-tracking websites, which show the routes aircraft fly and give the call sign of the company operating them.  The article provides an example of the circuitous route of ownership the aircraft take – from an Irish leasing company, via a BVI company (owned by Ukrainians) and then leased to Khors, before passing to Cham Wings.



Author: raytodd2017

Chartered Legal Executive and former senior manager with Isle of Man Customs and Excise, where I was (amongst other things) Sanctions Officer (for UN/EU sanctions), Export Licensing Officer and Manager of the Legal-Library & Collectorate Support Section

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