A man who runs a controversial armoured-vehicle maker, with Mideast operations that Ottawa contends are beyond the reach of Canada's export laws, has a Canadian passport, a factory in central Ontario and immediate family and property here.
And yet Streit Group founder and chairman Guerman Goutorov, under scrutiny by the RCMP for sales made to war-torn conflict zones such as Libya and Sudan, seems to have outgrown Canada.
For years now, Mr. Goutorov has been based out of the United Arab Emirates – a far cry from his humble beginnings in Toronto in the early 1990s where the Russian immigrant struggled to build a business making armoured banking vehicles starting from his garage.
"It was really hard for a Russian immigrant to start an armoured-car business in Canada after all those movies about the Russian mafia," Mr. Goutorov, 50, told an interviewer from In Dubai, a Russian-language YouTube channel, in 2013. "In most cases, those cars are designed to carry large amounts of cash and the buyers must trust you in order to buy those cars from you."
Mr. Goutorov did not respond to a request from The Globe and Mail for an interview.
Despite initial challenges in the 1990s, Mr. Goutorov's fledgling Canadian business ultimately flourished and diversified to include retrofitting luxury vehicles with armour and ballistics glass and selling machines to military buyers.
A deal to armour-clad Toyota Land Cruisers for the U.S. and Iraqi governments brought Mr. Goutorov to the UAE in 2004, where, he told an In Dubai interviewer, he decided to build a factory so he could meet the contract's four-month turnaround time.
Streit's UAE operations soon evolved into its global hub. Streit is a private company and is not required to release its financial statements but in 2013 Mr. Goutorov told an interviewer the firm had generated $160-million in sales for the year previous. He didn't specify which currency.
Mr. Goutorov appears to be prospering, at least from appearances: Streit's promotional videos include one documenting a glittering and lavish 2016 New Year's gala the company staged at a Dubai luxury hotel – and set to Beautiful Life by the 1990s Europop group Ace of Base. A 2015 video features men in Arabic headdress nibbling canapés on a reviewing stand and watching a demonstration of Streit vehicles as choreographed blasts of fire shoot from the ground and a trio of violinists serenade them from the back of a moving truck.
The RCMP has been probing the Canadian-owned company for more than three months over its sales of armoured vehicles to Libya despite a ban on military exports to that country – a review that now has been expanded to include shipments to Sudan.
The Mounties will have to wrestle with whether sanction measures that prevent Canadians from selling to embargoed states also apply when those carrying a Canadian passport conduct their business abroad.
The spotlight on Streit comes amid a growing debate in Canada over the military and security products that Canadians sell to Mideast countries – including a $15-billion deal with Saudi Arabia – and increasing concern Ottawa is not doing enough to monitor and control this trade.
Mr. Goutorov retains crucial roots in Canada. He is the listed co-owner of a home in a gated community in Aurora, Ont., north of Toronto, as well as a lakeside property in Barrie, Ont. He has a child attending university in Canada and Streit has announced its Canadian manufacturing operations, currently located in Innisfil, Ont., are slated to move to nearby Barrie.
Canadian measures implementing the UN ban on arms shipments to both Libya and Sudan stipulate that "no person in Canada and no Canadian outside Canada shall knowingly export, sell, supply or ship arms and related material" to these destinations.
In these cases, however, the armoured vehicles came from Streit's UAE facilities. And the department of Global Affairs under Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion has repeatedly said this is beyond its jurisdiction because it's not responsible for shipments of military goods between two foreign countries – regardless of Mr. Goutorov's citizenship.
The Globe reported in April how a UN panel had concluded Streit's 2012 shipment of 131 armoured personnel carriers violated a Security Council embargo. Earlier this month, The Globe reported how Streit sold 30 vehicles to Sudan in 2012, despite a Canadian ban on military and paramilitary shipments to that country.
Streit told UN experts in the Libyan case that it "strenuously reject[s] any suggestion that Streit Group could knowingly or otherwise break national or international law."
A spokesman for Streit Group has declined to comment on the Sudan sale. But when asked about a similar sale in South Sudan, the company insisted its vehicles are not military vehicles and are not exported with any form of weaponry.
For his part, Mr. Goutorov says working out of the Mideast is easier than operating from Canada. For one, it means shorter shipping distance to customers. In a 2013 CNN interview posted on Streit's website, he estimated his market would be 60 per cent military buyers and 40 per cent commercial customers by 2014.
"We are close to war zones – Middle East and Africa – where there's high demand for armoured vehicles," he told In Dubai.
Plus, it's more difficult for potential clients to travel to Canada, according to Mr. Goutorov, citing this country's "complex entry-visa requirements" as a hindrance. "Almost all of our clients come from war-affected countries; therefore they are not really welcomed to Canada, while in the UAE, a visitor visa can be obtained in just one day."
However, Both Mr. Goutorov and his company, in presentations or interviews, are quick to point out Streit got its start in Canada.
Canadian diplomats based in the United Arab Emirates have also publicly supported Streit as a Canadian company. Claudio Ramirez, a Canadian government official formerly posted to Abu Dhabi, made a point of tweeting in 2015 that "Canada's Streit Group" expanded a UAE factory. Canada's former ambassador to the UAE, Arif Lalani, used the social-media platform in 2013 to speak supportively of this "Canadian company" whose armoured vehicles he said once protected him.
Still, in the 2013 In Dubai interview, Mr. Goutorov said it's hard to imagine his company would have expanded so much if he hadn't moved to the UAE.
Global Affairs in Ottawa won't say whether Canada provides Streit with trade commissioner services – assistance offered to help Canadian companies expand globally – explaining to divulge this could harm a firm's commercial interests.
Mr. Goutorov's company has attracted attention from Washington, though.
Streit recently ran afoul of U.S. export rules over armoured-vehicle exports from its U.S. plant. In September, 2015, the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security, which polices foreign exports, announced it had imposed a $3.5-million (U.S.) penalty on Streit, several affiliated companies and corporate officers including Mr. Goutorov.
The U.S. government announced that $1.5-million (U.S.) of this penalty was "suspended" as part of the settlement agreement with Streit but said the fine was applied because Streit companies shipped armoured vehicles to destinations including Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and the Philippines without obtaining required export licences.