Three companies from Belgium illegally delivered hundreds of tons of industrial chemicals to Syria. And one of the substances can be used for the production of chemical weapons. Why didn't anyone notice anything suspicious for so long?

Over 2 years, 24 illegal deliveries were noted: hundreds of tons of isopropanol, acetone, methanol and dichloromethane. Chemicals were sold to private firms in Syria and Lebanon. Allegedly - for the production of paint and varnish products.

All would be well, if not for one thing. Since 2014, such operations require a special permit, which none of the Belgian companies had. And one more important detail: isopropanol is one of the constituent elements for the production of poison gas sarin. As the chemicals were exported to private vendors, the substances could easily be obtained by terrorist groups. By the way, the firms that bought these chemicals, immediately after the scandal began, ceased to exist.

The three companies from Antwerp - Chemie Trading, Annex Customs and Danmar Logistics. All are well known not only in Belgium, but also in Europe. They have been featured in business publications - such as Bloomberg. It is unlikely that these firms could act independently, without approval from a higher authority - at least tacitly. Apparently, attempts to justify themselves would be inept. Company executives claim that they allegedly did not know anything about special permits and traded with trusted traders. The very ones that evaporated after this information came to light.

Questions arise for the customs of Belgium. How can these chemicals be exported without specific permission? Why did this information reach journalists only two years later? An interesting thing is that the Belgian authorities did not see anything strange with this information and immediately rushed to defend their companies.

"It's a shock for us to know that there can theoretically be a connection between chemical attacks in Syria and the deliveries of our companies, but I repeat: it is incorrect to entirely equate isopropanol to sarin," said Johan Van Overtveldt, Belgium's finance minister.

While the investigation is in full swing, the customs of Belgium have filed a lawsuit against the businessmen. They are accused of violating rules for the supply of chemicals. "We are conducting a number of investigative actions, questioning trade agents and intermediaries, all witnesses will be invited to the court session," says Ronald Kassiers, a spokesman for the Antwerp court.

The court of Antwerp will have the hearing on on May 15.