According to a contract and bank records from late 2007 and early 2008, a company tied to a state-backed Russian mafia group, according to US officials, agreed to pay more than $ 3 million to a company called Balec Trading Ventures, Ltd — supposedly for high-end “furniture.”
Wire transaction records seen by CNN confirm that at least $ 900,000 was transferred.
Both businesses are registered in the British Virgin Islands.
The company allegedly tied to Russian mafia was called Quartell Trading Ltd., and the US Department of Justice claims it is one of the many vehicles into which millions of dollars of stolen Russian taxpayer money was laundered a decade ago in connection with the so-called “Magnitsky affair,” perhaps the most notorious corruption case in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Balec Ventures is owned by Issa al-Zeydi, a Russian whom the US Treasury Department sanctioned in 2014 for his connection to Scientific Studies and Research Center, the hub of Assad’s nonconventional weapons program, including its manufacture of Sarin and VX nerve agents and mustard gas.
The Syria-born Issa al-Zeydi does not have a conspicuous public profile in Russia, apart from a largely inactive social media page on VKontake, the Russian version of Facebook, which CNN has confirmed belongs to the man who owns Balec Ventures.
He graduated in 1964 from Bauman Moscow State Technical University, where he studied engineering.
According to corporate registration records in Russia, al-Zeydi is also the owner and/or CEO of several small companies with next to no capital.
One of these, Aldzhamal Interneshal, claims to work in “non-specialized wholesale trade,” “the production of petroleum products” and the “manufacture of industrial gases.”
He was also the director of Enterprises Ltd. and Fruminenti Investments Ltd., two companies that the US sanctioned in 2014 for their connection to the Scientific Studies and Research Center, Assad regime’s agency responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons and ballistic missiles,” according to the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Following the sarin attack in Syria in April, which prompted President Donald Trump to authorize US airstrikes against an Assad airbase, the Treasury Department further sanctioned 271 employees of the Scientific Studies and Research Center, describing it as “one of the largest sanctions actions in its history.”