US Probes Sales of Dell PCs to Syria

The investigation comes after a report in May alleged that a distributor in the Middle East was selling Dell computers to the Syrian regime.

Federal investigators are looking into allegations that Dell PCs had been sold by a third party to the Syrian regime in violation of U.S. trade sanctions.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) made public Dec. 9, Dell officials said the federal government began the inquiries following a May 3 article by The New York Times that said a distributor in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), BDL Gulf FZCO, had sold Dell technology to the Syrian government, which has been waging a bloody civil war with rebels for more than two years.

Dell officials said the company was cooperating with the federal probe while at the same time conducting its own internal investigation. The company has suspended doing business with BDL in the UAE pending the outcome in the investigations.

After The New York Times published its article, SEC staff had asked Dell to talk about the allegations and whether they could be considered a liability under U.S. sanctions or export laws. Dell officials said the company had received an administrative subpoena from the U.S. Department of Commerce looking for documents related to sales, exports and services related to BDL.

The company was alerted June 3 that the case had been turned over to the Department of Justice. "Dell has been in regular communication with the Assistant U.S. Attorney handling the matter and is cooperating with the investigation," the tech vendor told the SEC.

In addition, "in parallel with the governmental inquiries referred to above, Dell is conducting an internal investigation into the foregoing matters with the assistance of outside counsel," company officials told the SEC in their letter. "Dell is reviewing documents, collecting information, and interviewing employees as part of its investigation."

Dell also noted that the company has a standard contract that prohibits any of its employees or contractors from selling equipment to particular countries if doing so would violate U.S. laws or sanctions.

"Dell does not conduct any business directly in any country identified as a state sponsor of terrorism, including Syria, unless under authority of a license or license exception from the U.S. Government and the governments of any other countries with jurisdiction, nor does Dell conduct business with, or provide financing to, the governments of any of those countries," the company wrote.