U.S. Bars Dubai Dealers Who Sold Web-Filtering Gear to Syria

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  • Software, devices were from Brocade Communications, Blue Coat
  • Commerce Department fines the two Dubai dealers $250,000

The U.S. government barred two Dubai-based dealers from exporting equipment from the U.S. and fined them after they sold Web monitoring and filtering systems to Syria’s state-controlled telecommunications company, violating a trade embargo, according to a Commerce Department settlement document.

The dealers, Aiman Ammar and Rashid Albuni, agreed to five-year and six-year bans, respectively, and will pay $250,000 to settle a complaint by the Commerce Department that they sold equipment and software from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Blue Coat Systems Inc. to Syria from 2010 through 2013, the agency said Monday. Bain Capital LLC bought Blue Coat this year.

Along with reseller Computerlinks FZCO, which was fined by the Commerce Department in 2013 for its part in some of the transactions, the dealers lied to the U.S. companies about the destination of the $1.8 million worth of goods, according to the settlement.

Ammar and Albuni, who controlled three companies that were also part of the settlement agreement, were formally fined $7 million for their roles, the statutory maximum. All but $250,000 of that amount was suspended.

The Commerce Department’s investigation stemmed from reports in 2011 that activist hacker groups had found Blue Coat devices being used to block websites and monitor social networks in Syria.

“It was a reseller that sold the equipment; we had no knowledge of it and the U.S. Commerce Department supported that,” said Maureen O’Connell, a spokeswoman for Blue Coat.

Ed Graczyk, a spokesman for Brocade said the company had been cooperating with the Commerce Department since it was made aware of the issue. “We’re an innocent target of the conspiracy and we’ve not been charged with any wrongdoing,” he added.