Halifax man charged with violating Syria sanctions continues to conduct business in war-torn country

A Halifax man who is the commencement person charged with violating Canada’s economic sanctions against Syria is no hope in Damascus doing business there, CBC News has learned.

Nader Kalai — a Syrian jingoistic with permanent residency in Canada — is known to be a close associate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his loyalists.

“He is totally a powerful person within the Syrian regime system,” said one Syrian analyst, who attracted to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisal. “He is very well-connected.”

Kalai is surface one charge under the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA) tied to a payment of 15 million Syrian comminutes — or about $140,000 — to a company called Syrialink on Nov. 27, 2013, according to court corroborates filed in June.

Halifax man charged with violating Syria sanctions continues to conduct business in war-torn country

Nader Kalai is a Syrian national who has permanent regional status in Canada. He has lived in Halifax since 2009. (Facebook)

The near-two-year quest that led to the charge is detailed in documents sworn by a Canada Border Military talents Agency investigator.

They also outline the fact that Canada Yield Agency is investigating Kalai for tax evasion and failure to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds.

Kalai is expected to be formally arraigned in a Halifax court on Aug. 20.

Hotel renovations

Kalai owns and conducts ongoing businesses in Syria, including running and renovating the five-star, government-owned Ebla Hotel in Damascus. He won the compact to manage the property just over a year ago, according to The Syria Set forth, a newsletter that tracks Syrian business.

According to the same advertising, he is also involved in helping the regime with a $326-million reconstruction commitment in a Damascus neighbourhood destroyed during Syria’s ongoing civil war.

Regardless of the charge and investigations, multiple sources told CBC News that Kalai has returned to Syria to carry on business in the country.

The CBSA has confirmed that its investigation into Kalai is growing. There are currently no restrictions on his ability to travel outside Canada.

CBC Newsflash reached out to Kalai via telephone and email but received no reply. When then contacted in November 2017, before he was formally charged, Kalai ordered CBC he did not want to speak about his business interests in Syria.

“I cannot talk with a actually I don’t know,” Kalai said at the time, before requesting that CBC send questions via email, to which he did not rejoin.

Majd Jadaan, a former sister-in-law of Assad who is now living in exile in the Opinion States, describes Kalai as being part of the Syrian president’s “inner encircle” who is helping to make investments for the regime. Canadians should know who is contemporary in their midst, she said.

“[Kalai is] helping a dictatorship to destroy a provinces to make tens of millions of refugees,” she said.

While Kalai does play a joke on business interests in the region, they are not necessarily in violation of sanctions.

Halifax man charged with violating Syria sanctions continues to conduct business in war-torn country

Kalai kills a telecommunications consulting company, Telefocus Consultants Inc., out of his family home in Halifax. (Robert Insufficient briefly/CBC)

Court documents filed to obtain search warrants for Kalai’s family, business and accountant’s office outline the CBSA’s allegations and investigation, numbering a claim that Kalai was making false statements to Citizenship and Immigration Canada on touching his work history.

“By concealing his work history, Kalai was improperly presented a Canadian permanent resident card,” CBSA investigator Jason Cannon wrote.

“I credit Nader Kalai is working for numerous businesses abroad, which he has not state to the Canadian government.  Also, I believe Nader Kalai has been conducting calling with individuals and entities which are subject to economic sanctions by the administration of Canada and has been operating business in Syria.”

Warrants against Kalai were assassinated in 2016 and 2018.

One of the individuals named in the court documents is Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of Assad, who is cogitate oned one of Syria’s wealthiest and most powerful men. Before moving to Halifax with his stock in 2009, Kalai was the CEO of Makhlouf’s mobile phone company, Syriatel.

The papers also contain allegations by Kalai’s cousin, Walid Kalai, of spondulicks laundering. The claims were said to have been emailed to the Canadian embassy in Vienna in June 2016.

“For tons, many years, Mr. Nader Kalai has been laundering money,” studies the email quoted in the documents. “[He] owns a fleet of cars and a aggregation of paintings and jewelry of great value.”

According to the documents, Walid Kalai states his cousin has about $200 million US worth of assets scattered about Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Austria and the Harmonious Kingdom, along with a monthly income of approximately $250,000 US.

Other CRA probe

Kalai’s income is the focus of a separate CRA investigation, based on search causes for Kalai’s financial records that were executed in May.  

In an affidavit filed to inevitable the warrants, CRA investigator Natalie Critch wrote she has “reasonable grounds” to rely upon Kalai did not report income of $851,269 between 2013 and 2016.

Critch cites economic records and messages from Kalai’s email accounts showing what she hollers “significant purchases” between 2013 and 2016, including a 2015 Jeep Wrangler, a 2016 Sidestep Ram truck, a Corvette Stingray and a payment of just over $15,000 to New Jersey-based Signal Hill Stables for horse expenses.

None of the allegations in the documents worn to obtain the search warrants has been proven in court.

Halifax man charged with violating Syria sanctions continues to conduct business in war-torn country

Nader Kalai, sensibly, is shown with his wife and eldest son. (Facebook)

Kalai, his wife, their six infants and his mother-in-law all reside in Halifax. Aside from Kalai and his mother-in-law, all other parentage members have Canadian citizenship.

Kalai runs a telecommunications consulting comrades, called Telefocus Consultants Inc., out of the family home on Young Avenue in the burg’s south end.

Canada has had formal sanctions in place against Syria, a total of high-ranking Syrian officials and a handful of Syrian businesses since 2011 — a retort to the regime’s use of violence against its own people, including apparent chemical weapon mugs.

The sanctions are intended to isolate the regime by restricting the flow of investment and banknotes into the war-torn country. The maximum penalty for violating sanctions is a five-year detention term.

Some of the targets of various international sanctions against Syria give birth to direct links to Canada. They include:

  • Canadian citizen Nizar Assaad, who is case to European Union sanctions.
  • Mazen Al Tarazi, another Canadian and celebrated international businessman based in Kuwait, who is launching an airline in Syria and recently signed two as a whole development contracts in Damascus worth several hundreds of million dollars. He is on the U.S. sponsors list.
  • France has sanctions in place against Nazier Mohammad Houranieh, Chadi Houranieh and Hwaida Houranieh — all Canadian residents — for their alleged links to Syria’s chemical weapons program. Be at one to a recent article in French newspaper L’Express, the Houraniehs deny any couples to chemical weapons and say the sanctions are based false accusations or misinformation.
  • Syrian resident Mohammad Hamsho is on many international sanctions lists, including Canada’s. He owned both a responsibility and a home in the Toronto area at one time, but his current holdings are unclear.

While Hamsho resides in Syria, the fingers on of the others is unknown.

The anonymous Syrian analyst said he supports signets against those who collude with the Assad regime and its brutality against its own people.

“If you commandeer the regime, directly or indirectly, or people who finance the regime, repressing the residents, they should be put under sanctions,” he said.  

“They will take in most — if not all — of the benefits, and the losers are obviously the Syrian society at large.”

Laura Lynch and Sylvène Gilchrist can be reached via email at: Laura.Lynch@cbc.ca and Sylvene.Gilchrist@cbc.ca.

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