The Essen-based chemical wholesaler Brenntag denied on Wednesday that it has circumvented EU export rules and Swiss law to facilitate the export of chemicals to Syria in 2014.
The German company’s Swiss subsidiary supplied isopropanol and diethylamine to the Assad regime, that is, two agents that can be used for the manufacturing of the nerve agents Sarin and VX. German media report that diethylamine exported to Syria was produced by German chemicals giant BASF in Antwerp, Belgium, while isopropanol was made by Sasol Solvents Germany GmbH in Hamburg, Germany.
The deal with Syria deal was first reported by Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk and Swiss group Tamedia. According to a UN Commission report published in March, the Assad regime was behind 32 out of a total of 37 chemicals attacks between 2013 and 2019, with Sarin and chlorine being the most frequently used agents.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Brenntag does not deny delivering the two agents, but it argues that in doing so it did not break the law as the chemicals were intended for the manufacture of analgesic, a company statement reads. Four NGOs have flagged the company’s export activity to Essen prosecutors, including Open Society, the Justice Initiative, Berlin’s Syrian Archive, and Trial International.
Germany’s Federal Office of Economics and Export Control says it had not issued any permits for those chemicals to this date.
In February, an Antwerp-based tribunal in Belgium found three businesses and their owners guilty of shipping 168 tons of a substance potentially used in the making of chemical weapons to Syria without submitting the appropriate export licenses. The companies were AAE Chemie Trading, Anex Customs and Danmar Logistics. They were fined between €75,000 and €500,000 for exporting isopropanol to Syria.