Syrian businessman and president Bashar Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf announced on Thursday that he was relinquishing his shares in several banks and insurance companies to his charity, Ramak Humanitarian.
He said such shares cannot be sold or passed on to others, adding that their revenues will now “completely” go to charitable work.
Rights sources in Damascus told Asharq Al-Awsat that Makhlouf’s move is aimed avoiding the government’s seizure of his assets, explaining that taxes are not applied to charities.
Makhlouf, one of Syria’s richest men, had his assets ordered seized earlier this month. The government says his telecommunications company, Syriatel, owes 134 billion pounds, around $77 million at the current exchange rate on the parallel market.
Makhlouf has addressed the dispute in a series video messages on his Facebook page in which he appealed to Assad himself to help save his firm. In one appearance, Makhlouf said he had been told to quit as the head of Syriatel.
Last week, the government placed a temporary travel ban against him. The court order said the travel ban comes after a request made by the ministry of telecommunications and would be dropped if Makhlouf paid the arrears, without specifying the amount.
In announcing that he was transferring his shares in banks and insurance companies to the charity, Makhlouf, in another video, said he was “very relieved and euphoric” because abandoning ownership is “very difficult, but giving it to a humanitarian charity is an indescribable joy.”
He said he has returned the money to the relatives of the pro-regime fighters who were killed or wounded in the Syrian conflict.