Publié par Michel Garroté le 14 août 2012

Michel Garroté – Les 150’000 barils produits chaque jour par la Syrie et qui sont en partie exportés rapportent 380 millions de $ par mois au dictateur Bachar Al-Assad. Mais pour contourner les sanctions internationales, le clan Assad a tissé une toile économique et financière qui s’étend notamment en Russie, en Malaisie, en Angola et en Afrique du Sud : la compagnie pétrolière syrienne Sytrol ; les banques russes Gazprombank et Novikombank ; la compagnie pétrolière angolaise Sonangol ; et la compagnie pétrolière sud-africaine Avon Oil Trading Ltd. Ces faits sont éclairants et révélateurs. En effet, si la Syrie parvient à contourner les sanctions, alors à fortiori, l’Iran y parvient également… Ci-dessous, je publie les extraits d’une investigation du Wall Street Journal sur le contournement des sanctions par la Syrie. La réalité dépasse la fiction et l’article du WSJ se lit comme un roman d’espionnage.

Michel Garroté

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By MARGARET COKER and JENNIFER VALENTINO-DEVRIES from the Wall Street Journal : Syria’s embattled regime laid plans to use Russian banks as part of an emergency effort to sidestep American and European sanctions on oil and financial transactions, according to Syrian government documents and correspondence reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The documents span a period from March until early July and also underscore the difficulties facing Western governments in sustaining comprehensive sanctions against Syria, as long as Damascus keeps its strong diplomatic alliance with Moscow. A cache of documents reviewed by the Journal includes what appears to be authentic correspondence between Syrian government officials and certain foreign companies. The 360,000 barrels of crude it pumps daily represent less than 1% of the world’s daily oil production. But Syria’s oil sales are one of the last sources of foreign currency for President Assad. The roughly 150,000 barrels per day Syria has available for export, after its domestic needs are met, are worth approximately $380 million per month at current prices.

After a July 1 meeting, four officials drafted a letter to then-Prime Minister Riad Hijab saying that international sanctions had limited their ability to collect revenue by cutting off conventional solutions and customary banking practices, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by the Journal. A copy of the letter was included in correspondence between the Syrian central bank and Syria’s oil-marketing company, known as Sytrol, whose head was one of the letter’s four signatories. So far this year, despite the sanctions, Sytrol has secured 11 contracts to sell oil, that letter said. In addition, the letter said, Sytrol had secured deals to import half the diesel fuel Syria is projected to need each year, fuel it doesn’t produce at home but needs for military and industrial uses. In that letter, the officials recommended a change in Syrian laws that would allow them to set up offshore companies and conduct business through them in order to minimize the impact of sanctions. Offshore companies are being formed in Russia and Malaysia and bank accounts are being activated in Russia in euro and Russian-ruble denominated accounts.

Then we would be able to pay for the value of the imports and receive the money for crude exports easily, while all concerned parties will take all the necessary actions to ensure the confidentiality of the proceedings in order not to open the way to the European Union and the United States to track the work of these companies and include them on the list of sanctions, according to the letter. Separate documents reviewed by the Journal indicate that as recently as June Syrian government entities were considering commercial transactions that would involve Russian banks. Those documents suggest that Syria was looking to do business with Gazprombank, the lending affiliate of Russia’s natural-gas monopoly. A sample contract form sent by Sytrol in February to prospective oil buyers, after both the U.S. and EU had imposed some sanctions, listed Gazprombank as the financial institution through which payments for crude could be made, according to documents reviewed by the Journal, suggesting that Syria intended to clear foreign-currency payments for oil via that bank. It isn’t known whether Gazprombank ever cleared any such payments, or what companies were involved in the 11 contracts that the Syrian government letter says have been signed this year.

In March, officials from Syria’s central bank traveled to Moscow and met with executives from Gazprombank, in part to try to strengthen business relationships, including exchanging information to facilitate electronic money transfers, according to a separate document. Correspondence in June between Sytrol and a small, Dubai-based oil trader identified Moscow-based Novikombank as Sytrol’s « nominated bank » through which the trader would send money to the Syrian government. Other Sytrol and Syrian government documents describe efforts to find buyers for the nation’s surplus oil. In pitches to several prospective customers, Sytrol officials agreed to discount Syrian crude, pricing it between $10 and $15 a barrel less than the Brent and the Dubai averages from which Middle Eastern oil is sometimes set.

One logistical problem posed by the sanctions was how to ship oil to buyers. Documents reviewed by the Journal show that Russian buyers of Syrian crude made plans to load Syrian oil onto leased tankers from Singapore and Russian-owned tankers based in the Black Sea. Correspondence between potential Russian buyers and Sytrol indicate that the buyers planned to use Russian insurance companies to cover the shipments. Other documents showed that Syrian oil officials had found suppliers for diesel fuel. Sytrol agreed to buy 200’000 metric tons of diesel per month for 12 months from Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol. A South African firm, Avon Oil Trading Ltd., negotiated the deal on behalf of Sytrol after Syria’s ambassador to South Africa approached the firm.

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