European investigations have revealed that the Assad regime purchased large quantities of prohibited chemicals that can be used in the manufacture of internationally banned chemical weapons, including precursors for the sarin nerve agent. Three Belgian companies are facing prosecution for exporting the chemicals in breach of international sanctions, officials said Wednesday.
Belgian weekly Knack first brought the case to light, reporting that a total of 168 tons of isopropanol had been shipped from Belgium to Syria and Lebanon between mid-2014 and the end of 2016.
Belgian customs agents have brought a case against the firms — a chemicals company, a transporter and an intermediary — who are suspected of exporting isopropanol to Syria and Lebanon without declaring it, a spokeswoman for the finance ministry told AFP.
According to Knack, the case involves a total of 24 shipments including other products such as methanol, a type of alcohol, and the solvent dichloromethane.
The three companies involved said that they were unaware that rules around the export of certain products had changed in 2013 and insisted their customers were private companies making paint and varnish.
Finance ministry spokeswoman Florence Angelici said a case had been brought for making a false customs declaration, as the companies had not listed isopropanol on the shipping documents.
A court in the port city of Antwerp will start hearing the case on 15 May.
The Assad regime has used internationally banned chemical weapons in over 390 occasions since 2014, resulting in the death and injury of thousands of civilians. Most recently, regime forces bombed the town of Douma in eastern Ghouta with toxic gasses on April 7, killing nearly 150 civilians and injuring a thousand more.
The United Stets, Greta Britain, and France launched missile strikes against military installations of the Assad regime in Damascus, Homs, and Hama in response to the April 7 attack on Douma. The targeted sited were used for the storage and manufacture of chemical weapons. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)