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The Boston Globe

Business

Dell computers sold to Syria despite sanctions

WASHINGTON — Large amounts of computer equipment from Dell have been sold to the Syrian government through a Dubai-based distributor despite strict trade sanctions intended to ban the selling of technology to the regime, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

The disclosure of the computer sales is the latest example of how the Syrian government has acquired technology, some of which is used to censor Internet activity and track opponents of President Bashar Assad.

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According to internal company e-mails, cash transfer statements, sales receipts, and shipping documents, the computer equipment was sold by BDL Gulf, an authorized dealer for Dell in the Middle East and Africa.

BDL sold the equipment to Anas Hasoon Trading, a Damascus-based company with contracts to provide computers to the Syrian government, according to billings records and e-mail exchanges between the companies.

Jess Blackburn, a spokesman for Dell in Round Rock, Texas, confirmed that BDL was an authorized reseller.

He said the company was recently made aware of a possible shipment of Dell equipment to Syria by an anonymous source.

‘‘We are investigating an allegation we received recently that BDL was involved in a possible transaction involving Syria,’’ Blackburn said in a statement. ‘‘Dell requires its resellers to follow US trade requirements, just as Dell does. Resellers of Dell products and services are contractually prohibited from selling or shipping any technology to a customer in a restricted country.’’

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The United States has barred the sales of most US-made goods to Syria for nearly a decade and has repeatedly tightened sanctions against the government.

An executive order by President Obama, dated April 22, 2012, specifically addresses the sale of computer technology to Syria, barring Americans from helping the Iranian and Syrian governments engage in human rights abuses, including monitoring and tracking of dissidents.

US officials charged with enforcing sanctions against Syria would not comment on the possible violation of export laws but did say that it was illegal to export technology to Syria unless the sale would promote the free flow of information between the Syrian people and the outside world.

Asked about the evidence of shipments to Syria, a manager at BDL said the company had hundreds of customers and did not keep track of their location.

Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously identified Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia as the owner of BDL Gulf. Representatives of Prince Alwaleed said that neither he nor his senior advisers are aware of any connection between the prince and BDL Gulf.

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