Fri 10 Jul 2020

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Rami Makhlouf’s first statement on accusations of corruption and confiscation of his assets

The Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf (Rami Makhlouf's Facebook page)

The Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf (Rami Makhlouf's Facebook page)

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Rami Makhlouf, a wealthy businessman and the cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has released a press statement for the first time since the Syrian government accused him of corruption and seized his assets.

The statement was published by the Beirut-based daily newspaper “al-Akhbar” (which is closed to Hezbullah) on Thursday, 6 February. The newspaper mentioned that this statement comes as a response from Makhlouf to a previous article in its newspaper that talked about Makhlouf’s corruption and the way the Syrian government dealt with him.

Makhlouf opened the statement by stressing on the fact that he had distanced himself from the media since the press conference he held in Damascus 2011. At that time, he announced the assignment of his shares in his private companies to charities, most prominent of which is al-Bustan Charity Association.

Regarding the accusations of his corruption, Makhlouf responded by pointing the importance of his companies that inject the Syrian Public Treasury with vast amounts of liquid assets, more than tens of billions of Syrian Pounds (SYP).

He added that roughly ten thousand Syrians are employed in his companies with salaries considered the highest in the country, providing service to more than 11 million users in 80 thousand selling points deployed in Syria (in a reference to Syriatel, a mobile network provider)

Makhlouf indicated that all these contributions to the Syrian society could not be seen corruption, especially that 75 percent of his companies’ profits go to humanitarian organizations and charity associations for the benefit of the Syrian community. He claimed that the concept of corruption is far from the reality of his business.

The famous businessman referred to the decision made on 19 January 2019 by the Ministry of Finance concerning the preventative confiscation of the movable and immovable assets belonging to him and his companies. Makhlouf was accused of customs violations of smuggled goods estimated at 1.9 billion SYP (1,826,923 USD) with fees of 215 million SYP (206,730 USD). Makhlouf was supposed to pay maximum fines of 8.5 billion SYP (8,173,076 USD) for the smuggled goods and 2.1 billion SYP (2,019,230 USD) as fees.

Makhlouf claimed that his involvement in the government’s decision came after dragging his name as being the owner of “Abar Petroleum Service SAL offshore,” to which he denied having any legal relation since its establishment to the present date.

Furthermore, he said that the only reason he rushed for a settlement with the General Directorate of Customs is to make sure that his business will not be affected by the decision.

Makhlouf claims that he paid 7 billion SYP of his own money on behalf of “Abar Petroleum Service SAL offshore” despite having no legal connection to the company. Nevertheless, the precautionary seizure of his assets has been unfrozen to the present date under the pretext that these procedures take time.

The provisional seizure decision mentioned that Rami Makhlouf owns the “Abar Petroleum Service SAL offshore” company.

The media outlets, over the past weeks, have talked about precautionary seizures on the assets of the government-linked business figures under the “anti-corruption campaign,” most notably Rami Makhlouf. As a result, reports of a dispute between al-Assad and his cousin Makhlouf were spread out in the country.

The government of the Syrian regime and its ministers have been implementing a new policy in their official statements in recent weeks, focusing on combating corruption in governmental institutions.

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