Halifax man accused of breaking Syrian economic sanctions elects trial by judge

Halifax man accused of breaking Syrian economic sanctions elects trial by judge

A Halifax businessman has elected to be tried by a  judge in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on allegations he broke international economic sanctions against Syria.

Nader Mohamad Kalai, 53, did not appear in court Monday for his arraignment. Halifax defence lawyer Joel Pink appeared on his behalf.

Kalai is a Syrian national with permanent residency in Halifax. He is known to be a close associate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his loyalists.

Pink also requested that Kalai not be present when his preliminary inquiry is held in January of next year.

Pink said his client is out of the country. The Crown did not object to Pink's request.

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

An investigation, that lasted nearly two years, led to the charge which is detailed in documents sworn by a Canada Border Services Agency investigator.

The documents also state that Canada Revenue Agency is investigating Kalai for tax evasion and failure to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income.

A preliminary inquiry into the economic sanctions charge is set for a half day on Jan. 11, 2019 in Nova Scotia provincial court in Halifax.

Offence carries five-year prison term

Kalai, his wife, their six children and his mother-in-law all reside in Halifax.  He runs a telecommunications consulting company, called Telefocus Consultants Inc., out of the family home on Young Avenue in the city's south end.

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

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