Middle East

Assad cousin Makhlouf refuses Syrian government demand to resign from telecoms empire

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Issued on: 17/05/2020 – 17:17Modified: 17/05/2020 – 17:17

Top Syria tycoon Rami Makhlouf on Sunday said the regime was piling pressure on him and threatening to arrest him and close his telecommunications empire unless he hands over profits.

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Makhlouf, a first cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, made the latest accusations against the Damascus government—the third since April—in a 16-minute Facebook video.

The head of Syrias largest mobile operator, Syriatel, has been embroiled in a power struggle with the Assad government since last summer when authorities seized his Al-Bustan charity and dissolved militias affiliated to him.

When the finance ministry in December froze the assets of several businessmen over tax evasion and illicit enrichment, the Syrian press said Makhlouf, his wife and companies were included.

On Sunday he said authorities are “demanding we forfeit our companys profits” and hand over “120 percent of the profits to the state or else we will be arrested”.

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Failure to comply, he said, will prompt authorities to revoke Syriatels licence.

Online attacks

At the end of April and again in early May, Makhlouf, who had kept a low profile throughout Syrias nine-year-war, posted online scathing attacks against authorities.

He said they were demanding $185 million in payments from Syriatel, urging Assad to intervene and reschedule the payment.

Makhlouf, who also has stakes in electricity, oil and real estate, has also accused security services of detaining employees to intimidate him into stepping down from his businesses.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, around 40 Syriatel employees and 19 from Al-Bustan have been arrested since April.

Condemning the arrests, Makhlouf claimed authorities would release the employees if he paid the $185 million and reRead More – Source