Five Syrians and one Egyptian deported or barred from Romania for alleged ties to extremism continue to do millions of euros of business in the Balkan country despite being deemed a threat to national security.

Such is the conclusion of this cross-border investigation into shady import and export dealings at the Romanian port of Constanța, the biggest Black Sea port.

Though forbidden from setting foot in Romania, the Syrians run their businesses remotely through proxies, the journalists found. Two are the grandchildren of a former Syrian interior minister. Their companies export thousands of livestock to Syria.

Others close to Omar Hayssam — a Syrian-born Romanian financier convicted in absentia of terrorist offenses — also used the port to send goods to Syria, the investigation found.

The port of Constanța was also used to ship tonnes of grain financed through a blacklisted Syrian bank, in contravention of international sanctions against Damascus after a decade of bloody conflict and allegations of chemical-weapon attacks against civilians, the journalists revealed.

Another entity, under U.S. sanctions since 2011, continued to have commercial relations with a Romanian company through the same port, according to the collaboration between journalists from Romanian news outlets Info Sud-Est and the Rise Project and the global Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

Syria remains one of the few countries to support Russian President Vladimir Putin in his invasion of Ukraine.

The investigation shows how people barred from Romania can still do business in the country, even when declared a danger to national security, and how the port of Constanța has been used to circumvent international sanctions.

See the stories below.

Cover image: The port of Constantza. Photo by Info Sud-Est.

Published stories