- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Commerce Department has taken action against two businessmen from the United Arab Emirates who illegally helped the Syrian government acquire Internet surveillance tools that were made in America.

Aiman Ammar and Rashid Albuni have been banned from exporting U.S. products for the next five and six years, respectively, and ordered to pay the department $250,000, the agency said this week.

In reaching an agreement with the government, the two men have settled a complaint stemming from their role in providing embargoed software and equipment to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad between 2010 and 2013.

According to the settlement agreement scheduled to be published Thursday in the Federal Register, Mr. Ammar and Mr. Albuni duped companies into doing business with them by falsifying information that was used to acquire products made by Blue Coat Systems and Brocade Communications, both of California.

The Commerce Department’s probe dates back to 2011 when Telecomix, a political hacktivist group, leaked records indicating Blue Coat’s software was being used in Syria to monitor and restrict access to the Internet amid reports that activists and dissidents were being targeted by the government for online posts.

The U.S. government determined Mr. Ammar and Mr. Albuni had managed to acquire Blue Coat’s deep packet inspection software, as well as server equipment manufactured by Brocade, by scamming third-party companies that have since been fined by the Commerce Department.

“The settlement announced today results from the aggressive law enforcement effort to prevent the Syrian government from acquiring technology that can repress the Syrian people,” Under Secretary of Commerce Eric L. Hirschhorn said in a statement.

“The investigation and subsequent prosecution illustrate the serious consequences companies face when they attempt to evade U.S. export controls,” Mr. Hirschhorn said.

Three companies that were used by the men to arrange the deals have also been sanctioned as well, the Commerce Department said.

Representatives for Blue Coat and Brocade shifted blame to the re-sellers who had been schemed into doing business with the men under false pretenses, Bloomberg reported.

Mr. Ammar and Mr. Albuni moved around $1.8 million worth of technology into Syria by saying the products were needed for companies operating in Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, according to the settlement.

In 2011, Fortune 500 companies made up 85 percent of the customer list for Blue Coat, which was bought by Bain Capital LLC in March for a reported $2.4 billion.

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