Syrian tycoon confesses to using shell companies to help Assad evade Western sanctions
AMMAN (JORDAN) – Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf disclosed on Sunday that he had established a host of shell companies to help president Bashar al Assad evade Western sanctions. In a social media post, he slammed the government for probing his business assets.
He is one of the country’s richest and most powerful businessmen. Makhlouf blamed the government of sending security forces to target his Cham Holding, the centrepiece of a vast business portfolio.
A cousin of the president and a former loyalist, Makhlouf said security forces were probing contracts signed by Cham Holding on suspicion he had embezzled funds abroad.
“They fabricated our embezzlement of funds and transferring it to our accounts abroad … Stop these unjust claims and read well the contracts,” Makhlouf said on Facebook.
“These companies’ role and aim is to circumvent (Western) sanctions on Cham Holding.”
The businessman, who has bankrolled the ruling family and its supporters, invited 70 investors 15 years ago to set up Cham Holding. In terms of capital, it is the largest firm in the country and monopolises major property developments.
Using the Caesar Act, the US imposed a wave of sanctions on Syria last month, targeting individuals and companies supporting Assad and Makhlouf’s entities are in the list.
His estrangement with Assad surfaced on April 30 when he slammed taxes imposed on Syriatel, the country’s main mobile company, which is owned by Makhlouf’s family.
He also blasted the “inhumane” arrest of his aides, exposing the widening gulf with the ruling elite.
According to insiders and members of the business fraternity, Assad is targeting Makhlouf’s wealth parked overseas as the nation’s economy is collapsing because of the civil war. A big chunk of his overseas assets has been seized while his contracts to manage and operate duty-free markets were abrogated.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field