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Dan-Bunkering trial: Prosecutors question Bunker Holding CEO Keld Demant

11 Nov 2021

Disclaimer: An online translation service was used in the production of the current editorial piece, which Manifold Times had reproduction permission from Danish Radio (DR).

The seventh day of the Dan-Bunkering trial, regarding alleged violations of EU Syria sanctions, took place on Tuesday (9 November) at the High Court in Odense, according to DR.

The day’s main activity revolved around prosecutors questioning Keld Demant, CEO of Bunker Holding and Chairman of the board at Dan-Bunkering. Keld Demant has been charged in the case against Dan-Bunkering for breach of the EU sanctions, and the prosecution is demanding that he be sentenced to prison.

During the interrogation, Senior Prosecutor Andreas Laursen focused on a number of pieces of information that had reached the top director. It was information that the prosecutor believed warned the director Dan-Bunkering was involved in – or could be involved in – illegal deliveries of jet fuel to Syria.

Keld Demant did not investigate inquiries himself, but trusted the employees

In Christmas 2016, Dan-Bunkering received an inquiry from the Danish Business Authority. The agency, which monitors whether Danish companies comply with sanctions, directly asked Dan-Bunkering if the company was in the process of supplying jet fuel as it will be in breach of sanctions if the product ended in Syria.

The inquiry went on to Bunker Holding CEO, Keld Demant, who believed he did exactly what he was supposed to do. 

  •         Keld Demant: I have asked my people to investigate the matter and respond the authorities at the agreed time correctly and accurately

The internal investigation in Dan-Bunkering showed the company supplied jet fuel to two Russian companies and that it was delivered to ports in the Mediterranean. At the time, Russian bombers were carrying out attacks in Syria, the prosecutor said during the interrogation.

  •         Andreas Laursen: Do you not relate to the content of the case? 

Keld Demant did not.

  •         Keld Demant: I have 100% confidence in the people who work with it. Trust cannot be graded. That’s 100%.

According to Keld Demant, no one in the company was in doubt that the legislation should always be followed. And he was convinced his employees took care of that, also in the case of jet fuel.

  •         Keld Demant: It was a serious case and it was also taken seriously.

Mail on jet fuel to Syria

At the end of January 2017, Dan-Bunkering wrote in a reply to the Danish Business Authority that there was no indication the company was supplying jet fuel that ended up in Syria.

Shortly after, Dan-Bunkering would resume deliveries of jet fuel to the Russian customer.

But a legal adviser in the group, Casper Dybdal, warned about this in an email to which the prosecutors returned to repeatedly in the trial.

In the email to Keld Demant and three other directors, the adviser wrote that “we have now been made aware that the product will most likely end up in Syria. What is your take on it?”

In court, the prosecutor asked Keld Demant how he responded to the email. The response from the CEO was that he had been told by his people that they had investigated the matter and that nothing was wrong. 

Deliveries of jet fuel continued in the following months after Dan-Bunkering introduced a clause in the agreements with the Russian customer that there must be no breach of sanctions. But the consequences of continuing deliveries were not taken into account by Bunker Holding’s CEO.

  •         Andreas Laursen: When you think about the consequence of making a wrong decision and violating sanctions, then that decision should not be around you? 
  •         Keld Demant: On the basis of all the information that has come and that the case has been thoroughly investigated and a lot of energy has been used to find out what is up and down, so no.

Keld Demant also stressed that he leads a very large group with over 50 subsidiaries, and all employees of Bunker Holding have undergone a module regarding sanctions compliance. Further, Keld Demant said he has never been involved in individual trades.

Mail with warning omitted by internal investigation

The two senior plaintiffs in the case had said in advance that during the interrogation of the top director, they would play audio clips from secret wiretaps made by the Special Economic and International Crime (SØIK) police.

The wiretaps took place in the fall of 2019 around the time SØIK conducted a search of Dan-Bunkering’s headquarters.

In court, the prosecutors played a short clip from a telephone conversation between Keld Demant and his then personal assistant, who is also the daughter of the group’s owner, Torben Østergaard-Nielsen. 

In the conversation, Keld Demant talks about some emails that he has reviewed with the group’s legal adviser, Casper Dybdal, and that they agreed that those emails “should stay there”.

The prosecutor wanted to know what it was all about and Keld Demant explained it was about the mail that had previously been presented in court. In the email, Casper Dybdal wrote Dan-Bunkering has been made aware the jet fuel has an “overwhelming probability” of ending up in Syria.

That email should not be part of an internal investigation launched by the case, Keld Demant said in court. That was what he told his assistant in the intercepted phone call, because she was nervous that the legal adviser would be personally offended by it.

  •         Keld Demant: The email has no bearing on the case, so it should not be included in the investigation.
  •         Prosecutor: Where should the email be? 
  •         Keld Demant: Now I answer in the same way. It should not be included in the investigation.

Keld Demant explained the internal investigation of Dan-Bunkering was launched after SØIK charged the company in September 2019.

  •         Keld Demant: The result of the internal investigation is that Dan-Bunkering and Bunker Holding have not done anything wrong.

The trial is set to continue next week, and a verdict is expected before Christmas.

Note: Earlier Manifold Times coverage regarding Bunker Holding/Dan-Bunkering’s alleged breaches of EU sanctions can be found below:

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Photo credit: Bunker Holding
Source: DR
Published: 11 November, 2021

 

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