* Swiss firm AOT Trading has shipped gasoil to Syria
* Fuel was sourced from Russian port
* Swiss govt says no evidence of sanctions violation
By Emma Farge
GENEVA, March 9 The Swiss body responsible
for enforcing sanctions said it has held talks with a number of
locally based trading firms including AOT Trading AG and Gunvor
over Syrian oil sanctions and has found no evidence of
Syria is under international scrutiny because of the violent
crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad and
activists are keen to shame any companies still supplying his
Swiss-based trading firm AOT Trading has been a rare
supplier of Russian gasoil to the increasingly isolated Syrian
government whose forces opposition activists blamed for killing
21 people on Friday.
Trade sources said that at least some of AOT's Syria-bound
fuel, such as gasoil delivered aboard the tanker 'Ray G' last
week, was initially sourced by Swiss-based trader Gunvor,
part-owned by a Russian tycoon.
"SECO (the Swiss Secretariat for Economics)... is in
contact with several companies active in oil products trading,
including the companies mentioned (AOT Trading and Gunvor).
Currently, SECO has no information that the oil sanctions have
been violated by companies based in Switzerland," Antje
Baertschi, a spokeswoman for SECO, said late on Thursday.
AOT Trading was not immediately available for comment and
Gunvor declined to comment.
There is no embargo on supplying Syria with fuels such as
the gasoil AOT delivered, which can be used both for heating and
to fuel army tanks.
But most former suppliers such as traders Vitol and
Trafigura have dropped trade after Syrian state-owned oil
companies, including Sytrol, formally responsible for product
imports, was placed on Swiss, European Union (EU) and U.S.
It was not clear who AOT Trading's counterparty was in
Syria. Venezuela has delivered at least two shipments of diesel
to the government of Syria.
Syria has faced worsening shortages this winter after
Western pressure made imports difficult as the country needs to
bring in at least half of its diesel requirements.
Diplomats blame power and fuel shortages on increased demand
from the military, while the government says attacks on
infrastructure have reduced supply.
AOT is part of a group owned by NPM/CNP, a Belgian holding
company controlled by Belgian billionaire Albert Frere. It has
other stakes in a variety of firms including Iberdrola
The Swiss government added seven names - most of them
ministers - on Friday to a list of top Syrian officials on whom
it imposed sanctions last year to put pressure on Assad to end
(Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Jessica
Donati; editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Anthony Barker)