Four Months' Suspended Prison Sentence for Demant Over Dan-Bunkering Sanctions Breaches

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Tuesday December 14, 2021

Bunker Holding's Keld Demant, the CEO of the largest bunkering firm in the world, has been handed a four-month suspended prison sentence over subsidiary Dan-Bunkering's trades of jet fuel in the Eastern Mediterranean that breached EU sanctions on Syria.

The verdict in the Dan-Bunkering case was given at a court in Odense on Tuesday. Demant's sentence is conditional on a probationary period of one year, according to news agency Avisen Danmark. Dan-Bunkering has been fined DKK 30 million ($4.6 million), as well as having profits of DKK 15 million confiscated, and Bunker Holding has been fined DKK 4 million.

"The court has not found that any of the defendants acted with direct intent to violate EU sanctions," Dan-Bunkering said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

"We will now take the necessary time to consider and evaluate the verdict and the premises of the verdict thoroughly before making any decision of whether to appeal to a higher court."

"Two companies and a director have been convicted of selling more than 170,000 tonnes of jet fuel to Russian companies, which sent it on to Syria," Anders Rechendorff, senior prosecutor at Denmark's Public Prosecutor for Special Economic and International Crime, said in a statement on the organisation's website on Tuesday.

"It says something about the seriousness of the violation that the fuel has entered the tanks of Russian fighter jets that have bombed Syria on behalf of Assad.

"It is of course very serious when a Danish company violates EU sanctions that have been imposed on another country on the basis of a very critical situation."

Dan-Bunkering, Bunker Holding and Demant were accused of EU sanctions breaches over 33 jet fuel deals with Russian counterparties in 2015-2017 where the oil allegedly ended up in Syria.

All three defendants had denied the charges, saying there was no conclusive evidence of the oil ending up in Syria and that internal investigations had shown no evidence of any Bunker Holding employee knowing about sanctions breaches.

The ships on which the oil was loaded, the Mukhalatka and Yaz, allegedly took jet fuel cargoes loaded in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus to the Syrian port of Banias. Prosecutors had said they have information from Banias port inspectors via US investigators to show this, but the AIS data record of the ships' movements does not because their AIS systems were turned off at the time of their shipments.

In one shipment from Agio Theodoroi in December 2015, the destination in the AIS system was initially recorded as Beirut, before being changed to Piraeus and then changed back to Beirut, with the signal showing the ship's location being shut off for 63 hours while the vessel was to the south of the Turkish coast.

Russian shipping firm Sovfracht has told US investigators the signal was turned off for security reasons.

The defence argued that the EU sanctions law was not designed to apply to sales to foreign governments or militaries.

The prosecution had called for a two-year prison sentence for Demant, a fine of DKK 319 million for Dan-Bunkering and one of DKK 81 million for Bunker Holding.

Demant has served as group CEO of Bunker Holding since 2013, and has worked in various roles at the company since 1998.

Click Here to Read Dan Bunkering's Statement on the Verdict