Syrian Aid Charity Sentenced for Export Violations

By: Derrick Kyle, Senior Associate
Date: 01/30/2024

On December 28, 2023, a federal court sentenced New Hampshire charity NuDay (a/k/a NuDay Syria) to five years of probation – the maximum sentence for an organizational defendant – for three counts of Failure to File Export Information. The sentence also included a $25,000 fine. NuDay pled guilty to violating export control laws related to shipments of humanitarian goods to Syria by willfully undervaluing the exports and transshipping the goods through Turkey without disclosing the actual ultimate destination of Syria.

The case is eye-catching for several reasons, not least because it involves a charity that, from all appearances, is doing admirable work for the people of Syria, a country that has experienced the second deadliest conflict of the 21st century.1 NuDay’s stated mission is “to secure dignified and empowered aid for women and children affected by humanitarian crises worldwide.”2 NuDay focuses on providing humanitarian aid, including school and hospital supplies, to those affected by the conflict in Syria. It was from these exports of goods to Syria that the violations arose.

Syria, which the United States has designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, is subject to U.S. economic sanctions and export restrictions. The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) press release regarding the sentencing does not provide complete information to determine the exact type of goods contained in the subject shipments nor whether NuDay would need licenses from the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) for the export of the goods. Importantly, the charge only related to a willful failure to file Electronic Export Information (“EEI”).

Below are some key items to consider from the NuDay case.

Charities (and Other Non-Profit Organizations) Are Not Immune to DOJ Prosecution

One obvious takeaway from NuDay’s prosecution is that U.S. government enforcement does not turn a blind eye to illegal acts by non-profit organizations. The NuDay matter was investigated by multiple federal investigative and enforcement agencies, including Federal Bureau of Investigation, BIS’s Office of Export Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations, and Homeland Security Investigations.

In its press release, DOJ did not shy away from the fact that NuDay was a charitable organization. In fact, DOJ made specific reference to the success of NuDay, comparing its in-kind donations of $71 million in 2019 to OXFAM’s ($73.5 million) and the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation’s ($41.4 million). Additionally, an FBI Special Agent involved in the case commented, “This case highlights the FBI’s ongoing commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to prevent the erosion of public trust in charitable organizations by ensuring that anyone who engages in criminal activity in order to evade our laws and regulations is held accountable.” In addition to the probation and fine, as a condition of the plea, NuDay’s founder and president, Nadia Alawa, and her family may no longer be involved with the charity.

Importantly, the prosecution of NuDay should not be interpreted as U.S. government opposition to the provision of humanitarian aid to Syria or other war-torn countries. The Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) has even created and published specific Guidance for the Provision of Humanitarian Assistance to Syria.

Importance of Correct EEI Reporting

DOJ’s statements contain no reference to national security concerns specifically related to NuDay’s violations. Instead, NuDay appears to have engaged in more mundane, albeit fraudulent, violations. But the NuDay case shows that such export reporting violations can rise to the level of criminal prosecution when the conduct is willful and used to evade the export regulations.

The specific violations relate to the requirement, under both the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) and the Foreign Trade Regulations (“FTR”), for U.S. exporters to file accurate EEI containing relevant information about each shipment, including ultimate destination, commodity description, value, and export control classification number.3 There are a few exemptions to the EEI filing requirements, including an exemption for shipments valued at or below $2,500. But under the EAR at 15 C.F.R. § 758.1, U.S. exports destined to a country designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, including Syria, require the filing of EEI regardless of value.4

To avoid EEI reporting requirements, NuDay artificially undervalued the contents of its exports to fall below the $2,500 value threshold. As described above, this reporting exemption does not apply to exports to Syria, but NuDay shipped the goods to Mersin, Turkey for later transshipment to Syria. NuDay provided Turkey as the country of ultimate destination, knowing that the true destination was Syria. Because there have been no allegations of national security impacts related to the shipments, it seems that NuDay was knowingly undervaluing the exports and providing the misleading destination information to prevent scrutiny of shipments destined for Syria, even when the shipments contained humanitarian goods.

Typically, negligent failure to file EEI violations carry a maximum potential civil penalty of $16,971 per violation, a value that is adjusted annually for inflation. But the NuDay case is a rare example of a criminal prosecution for EEI violations. Per 15 C.F.R. § 30.7(a)(1), criminal violations may be levied against exporters that knowingly fail to file EEI or knowingly submit false or misleading EEI. Violators may be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and five years imprisonment for each violation. Although this case involves willful violations, it should serve as a reminder to exporters to accurately report required EEI for exports, especially if the destination involves sensitive destinations like countries subject to economic sanctions or China. For example, see our recent article about EEI filings to some of these sensitive destinations, Are Your Company’s EEI Filings Compliant with the Census and BIS Requirements for Exports Destined to China, Russia, or Venezuela?

Cracking Down on Diversion

The NuDay case also highlights U.S. government concerns related to diversion through transshipment, one of the most common tools used to facilitate the evasion of export control and sanctions regulations. International trade law practitioners have long been familiar with the risks associated with the transshipment of goods through third countries prior to being received by end users in a restricted or prohibited location. But since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the attention given to the transshipment of goods has seemingly grown exponentially. In fact, the use by NuDay of Turkey as a transshipment point is particularly relevant to the ongoing export control crackdown involving Russia because Turkey is one of the primary transshipment locations for goods destined to Russia. (For a more in-depth commentary regarding the risks of diversion through Turkey, see our previous article, U.S. Seeks to Curtail Diversion of Restricted Goods and Technology to Russia through Turkey.)

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) and BIS have issued three joint alerts since mid-2022, all related to evasion of export controls. The first two joint alerts specifically relate to evasion of export controls on Russia and Belarus,5 while the most recent joint alert, issued on November 6, 2023,6 is in response to global evasion of U.S. export controls. Each of the FinCEN/BIS joint alerts contain a list of transactional and behavioral red flags related to transshipment and broader export control evasion. The publication of these alerts, among multiple other activities of agencies involved in sanctions and export control enforcement, signal to exporters and financial institutions the priority given to diversion investigations by the U.S. government.

Social Media Messages Are Discoverable in Government Investigations

The DOJ press release contains a very specific statement related to NuDay’s founder’s social media activity: “Alawa’s Facebook messages indicated that she and NuDay were aware of export restrictions, including the need to obtain export licenses, but ignored them.” It is unclear if the information regarding Alawa’s Facebook messages came from discovery during the trial, a whistleblower, or an earlier government investigation. Regardless of the source of the information, the press release statement serves as an important reminder that sensitive correspondence, which in this instance included knowledge of illegal activity, in any form can be discovered during a government investigation or proceeding. Written correspondence includes physical letters, emails, text messages, and social media posts or messages, among others. The first two categories are obvious, and the second two should be as well, but they are sometimes mistakenly overlooked by targets of investigations as too informal for consideration by the government.

Another portion of the above quoted language also stands out. The press release seems to imply that NuDay required licenses for the exports, but the charity was only sentenced for a failure to report EEI and not more serious violations related to failure to obtain export authorization. Perhaps Ms. Alawa incorrectly thought export licenses were required and the intentional misrepresentation of end destination was a means to avoid an inapplicable requirement. Or maybe export authorizations were potentially required for some of the exports, but NuDay accepted a plea deal on the lesser charges. The public will likely never know the full context of the violations involved, but it seems clear in this situation that Ms. Alawa’s social media activity directly impacted the outcome of the case.


The $25,000 fine in the NuDay case may not be particularly eye-catching, but criminal prosecution for reporting violations involving humanitarian aid is. The U.S. government expects this case to have a deterrent effect to prevent other organizations from intentionally evading export controls. Willful violations of export and sanctions regulations, including seemingly administrative or technical violations, can carry serious consequences. NuDay would undoubtedly have faced much stiffer punishment if it was exporting a class of goods other than humanitarian aid.

If you have any questions about EEI filing requirements, criminal prosecution of export control or sanctions violations, or government investigations into these or similar matters, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Torres Trade Law.


1 Ray, Michael, 8 Deadliest Wars of the 21st Century, Britannica, (last visited Jan. 23, 2024).

2 About, NuDay, (last visited Jan .18, 2024).

3 15 C.F.R. § 758.1(b); 15 C.F.R. § 30.9.

4 This requirement extends to the other countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism, Iran and North Korea, as well as Cuba, which is subject to a unilateral embargo.

5 FinCEN and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security Urge Increased Vigilance for Potential Russian and Belarusian Export Control Evasion Attempts, FIN-2022-Alert003 (June 28, 2022), available at; Supplemental Alert: FinCEN and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security Urge Continued Vigilance for Potential Russian Export Control Evasion Attempts, FIN-2023-Alert004 (May 19, 2023), available at

6 FinCEN and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security Announce New Reporting Key Term and Highlight Red Flags Relating to Global Evasion of U.S. Export Controls, FIN-2023-NTC2 (Nov. 6, 2023), available at