His arrest and his imprisonment in France at the end of December had gone relatively unnoticed, his identity not having been communicated by the prosecution. But, according to a source familiar with the matter, it is Salah Habib, a 59-year-old Franco-Syrian. The case is unprecedented.
The man was indicted for « conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity, complicity in crimes against humanity and complicity in war crimes », then placed in pre-trial detention. He is accused of having supplied equipment to the Syrian army, including components that could be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons. This is the first time that an indictment has intervened in an investigation in France on suspicion of support for the Syrian army and the Center for Scientific Studies and Research, the project manager of the Syrian clandestine chemical program.
Salah Habib is far from being unknown to the French authorities, according to our information. Born in 1962 and married to a Frenchwoman, he owns a house in Aix-en-Provence. It was while coming to spend the end of year celebrations that he was arrested.
Investigations in France began when he was placed in 2016 – along with the shipping company he runs, Yona Star – on the financial sanctions blacklist established by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, a dependent body. from the US Treasury. The company was suspected of having shipped goods to Damascus, in violation of the international embargo.
Used to circumvent sanctions
“Yona Star has long acted as a maritime agent for the Syrian Air Force, as well as for other government entities, including the Center for Scientific Studies and Research, the intelligence services of the air force and the army supply office ”, points out the US Treasury.
Salah Habib is accused of being part of the circle of businessmen that the regime uses to circumvent sanctions. A type of profile sought, who is asked to settle abroad, to subcontract the smuggling of oil and weapons. In this regard, the dual nationality of Salah Habib could only be seen as an asset. If only to open bank accounts.
Intermediary companies like Yona Star, established in particular in the United Arab Emirates or in Lebanon, play with the opacity that may reign there in commercial and legal matters. They import sensitive materials with the help of “end user certificates” which include a non-retransfer, non-export or non-re-export commitment. Salah Habib, whose company was registered in the United Arab Emirates, would have officially imported equipment in the Gulf country but would have shipped them to Damascus. At French request, the Emirati authorities ended up cracking down and invited him to leave their territory.
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