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Syrian Customs Seize Rami Makhlouf’s Assets

Syrian Customs Seize Rami Makhlouf’s Assets

Tuesday, 24 December, 2019 - 08:00
A combination photo of Bashar Assad (L) and Rami Makhlouf. (Reuters)

In a precautionary measure, Damascus authorities placed the property of Syrian businessmen Rami Makhlouf, his wife and his partners under preventive seizure, to ensure the restoration of funds owed to the state treasury.

This is the first time that Syria issues an official order against Makhlouf, the cousin of regime leader Bashar Assad and the economic arm of the Assad family in Russia.

Last Thursday, the general directorate of Syrian customs issued a decision to place the movable and unmovable property of Makhlouf and each of Baher al-Saadi, Mohammed Kheir al-Amrit, Ali Mohammed Hamzah and their wives, under preventive seizure.

The decision also involved the company Abar Petroleum Service SAL, which is registered in Lebanon.

The customs’ decision noted that the preventive seizure seeks to guarantee the rights of the state treasury from fees and fines related to case number 234-2019 at the directorate for combating smuggling.

It said Makhlouf violated the import rules by smuggling products worth 1.9 billion Syrian pounds without paying the charges and fines.

Media sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday there are conflicting reports about the disputes among members of the ruling family in Syria.

The sources said that disputes between Assad and his cousins is due to the deterioration in the health of his 84-year-old uncle, who is authorized to manage the family’s funds since the rule of late President Hafez Assad.

“There are fears that the fortune of Mohammed Makhlouf could be transferred to his sons after his death,” the sources said.

They said that in 2017, Makhlouf’s Abar Petroleum Services manage to transfer a shipment of petroleum products, diesel, gasoline, and liquefied gas worth $30 million to Syria without paying charges to the customs.

The customs’ decision against Makhlouf comes as part of a campaign launched recently by the Syrian regime to force entrepreneurs and businessmen to pay millions of US dollars to the Central Bank to save the country from bankruptcy.

In August, Assad ordered a series of measures against companies owned by his cousin in Syria, including Makhlouf’s shares in the state-owned Syrian Telecom Company (Syriatel), the country’s biggest mobile phone company.

The European Union and the US have imposed sanctions on Makhlouf due to his role in supporting the Damascus regime.

Makhlouf founded several companies, including Cham Holding. He was later linked to financing pro-regime forces and their militias, mainly through the Al-Bustan Association.

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