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Syrian Authorities Order Makhlouf to Step Down, Arrest 60 of his Employees

Syrian Authorities Order Makhlouf to Step Down, Arrest 60 of his Employees

Monday, 18 May, 2020 - 10:00
People walk past the of cellphone company Syriatel, which is owned by Rami Makhlouf (File photo: Reuters)

Syrian security forces have continued to clamp down on companies belonging to businessman Rami Makhlouf after 60 managers and employees of his firms were arrested in five main governorates.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) stated that the security forces along with Russian police, arrested 19 employees of al-Bostan Charity on corruption charges in Latakia, Damascus, and Homs.

This brings the total of detained managers, employees, and technicians since the beginning of the security campaign in April to 60, including 40 from mobile operator Syriatel and 19 from al-Bostan.

Makhlouf announced Sunday that authorities have given him a deadline to resign from Syriatel or they would revoke the company’s license, but he vowed not to step down as chairman of the board of directors.

In the third Facebook video Makhlouf has issued, publicizing a rift with his cousin President Bashar Assad, he warned that the collapse of Syriatel, a main revenue earner for the government, would deal a “catastrophic” blow to the country’s economy.

Makhlouf apologized to the families of the employees who have been arrested by the security authorities, confirming they have been detained without legal action.

He accused security forces of arresting his employees in an “inhumane way”, warning that this approach will destroy the company.

The tycoon revealed he negotiated with the Syrian authorities to release the detained staff, and in return, they asked he pay the required amounts and assign a specific company to provide Syriatel with technical equipment and support.

Makhlouf indicated that authorities are also demanding that he gives up the company’s profits and hands them over to the state or else he will be arrested.

Makhlouf was widely considered part of the president’s inner circle and the country’s leading businessman. He played a big role in financing Assad’s war effort, according to Western officials.

Meanwhile, the Syrian regime lacks the means to stop the unprecedented devaluation of the Syrian pound.

After Makhlouf’s recent video, the currency’s exchange rate fell to a record low against the dollar in the black market, reaching SYP1,700.

SOHR reported that a number of money exchange offices in areas under regime control had stopped exchanging dollars or any other foreign currency as the Syrian economy continues to collapse.

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