A deepening family feud has forced the ugliness in Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to come out in the open. Assad has now seized the assets of his cousin businessman Rami Makhlouf. Considered the richest Syrian businessman, Makhlouf has been known to be a key player. He apparently posted a series of videos to Facebook in recent weeks rebuking the regime.
“Frankly, if he wasn’t part of the family, he’d probably be dead,” said Robert Ford, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Syria and is now a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale.
Described as the ‘poster boy of Syrian corruption’ by the US Department in 2008. He is known to have played a key role in the Syrian economy by owning control of 60percent of it. He was involved in oil and construction, but he seemed to have spread too much of his tentacles for his own good. His ownership of Syria’s biggest cell network, Syriatel could have put him in the regime’s crosshairs.
The government claims he owes $250 million in taxes. But Makhlouf has denied the claims calling it lies concocted by the security services. Syria’s justice ministry said that he would be subject to a travel ban until the case was resolved.
It seems that Assad did this to cover up for the growing mismanagement of the Syrian economy, a point glaring in front of Moscow and brought into focus. He has been collecting money in the form of taxes from the rich businessmen in Syria, something that Makhlouf had refused to adhere to.
Aside from Makhlouf, around a dozen pro-regime businessmen have been targeted for shakedowns as the regime looks to line its threadbare pockets.
Syria has been under a civil war for over a decade with two factions trying to rein control over the land. The country is in dire straits and vulnerable due to a lackluster infrastructure devastated by war. It is now facing a struggling fight against the spread of the corona virus pandemic, with literally non-existent medical facilities, ventilators, doctors, nurses and PPE.
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