German authorities are conducting raids on companies suspected of violating Russian sanctions

By Matthias Inverardi and Steve Stecklow

(Reuters) – German authorities raided the premises of three companies early Thursday as part of an ongoing probe into possible violations of European Union sanctions against Russia, prosecutors said in a statement.

The raids followed a Reuters investigation in December into the supply chain, which has continued to ship billions of dollars worth of electronic components to Russia despite Western export restrictions and manufacturer bans.

According to the statement, the German authorities also searched the homes of three suspects without naming the companies or individuals. The statement said records, documents and IT equipment were confiscated.

A person familiar with the case said one of the three companies searched by prosecutors was Smart Impex GmbH, a German wholesaler of IT products suspected by authorities of passing sanctions on electronic components through an intermediary company in Turkey evade.

Reuters could not reach Smart Impex or its manager Gokturk Agvaz by phone Thursday for comment. The names of the other two companies or the three suspects could not be determined.

Reuters reported in December that Agvaz co-founded Azu International Ltd Sti, an IT products wholesaler in Turkey, in March 2022. Azu International exported at least $20 million worth of components to Russia last year, including computer chips from US manufacturers, according to Russian customs records. Some went to a Moscow customer who received American and non-American products from Smart Impex before Russia invaded Ukraine last February.

Agvaz told Reuters in October that Smart Impex had halted exports to Russia to comply with EU trade restrictions but had sold goods to Turkey, a non-EU country that does not enforce many of the Western sanctions against Moscow. When asked about Azu International’s sales to Russia at the time, Agvaz replied, “It’s a trade secret from us.”

Smart Impex’s chief executive resigned in December after reading the Reuters article and subsequent discussions with lawyers, according to a letter he wrote to two other partners this month. Correspondence is available on, a public German business register. The departing partner wrote that he was unaware that Smart Impex’s supplies to Azu were destined for Russia and that he assumed Smart Impex’s business with Russia had been discontinued “with the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine”.

Smart Impex said in a written response to German TV show ARD MONITOR, which published an article about the company today, that the allegations are being investigated in detail and that audits so far have shown that goods exported to Russia are not affected sanctions.

(Reporting by Matthias Inverardi in Düsseldorf and Steve Stecklow in London, writing by Miranda Murray; editing by Janet McBride)


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