Assad’s cousin loses appeal to unfreeze financial assets in Switzerland

Syrian businessman Rami Makhluf in 2010. (AFP file photo)
Updated 27 October 2017

Assad’s cousin loses appeal to unfreeze financial assets in Switzerland

LONDON: Syrian billionaire Rami Makhlouf, who is a cousin of President Bashar Al-Assad, has been denied access to undisclosed sums of money in his Swiss bank accounts after losing an appeal to the country’s Federal Court.

Swiss bank accounts belonging to Makhlouf, who has close ties to the Syrian government and is considered to be the country’s wealthiest businessman, were frozen in 2011 after he was placed on a Swiss Federal Court sanctions list, the Swissinfo news site reported.

On Friday, Switzerland’s highest court upheld an earlier decision taken in June 2015 by the Federal Administrative Court to reject Makhlouf’s appeal to unfreeze his account on the basis that there is “highest probability that Makhlouf is close to the Syrian government and that there is a risk of financial support to the Syrian government.”

Makhlouf, a maternal cousin of President Assad, conducts much of his business through associates and is subject to international sanctions in numerous countries, including the US, where he was described in diplomatic cables as Syria’s “poster boy for corruption.”

In an effort to clean up his image after being vilified by opponents of Assad’s rule, he has separated himself from some of his business interests in Syria and portrayed himself as the main donor to a foundation for orphans and widows.

However Swiss authorities say this does not prove he has separated himself from the Syrian government. "The defendant has a personal and direct interest in maintaining the current regime if he wants to keep his status and his way of life," the Federal Administrative Court said in 2015.

Details unearthed by the Panama Papers revealed that The Makhlouf family was said to be worth $5 billion before the war in Syria and had control of up to 60 percent of the Syrian economy, with interests in duty free, retail, banking and telecommunications.

In 2013, Makhlouf’s brother, Hafez Makhlouf, head of the Syrian secret service, was refused an entry visa application to Switzerland and had his assets in the country frozen, alongside those of his father Mohamad Makhlouf.


Egypt’s El-Sisi warns of instability after protest calls

Updated 27 September 2020

Egypt’s El-Sisi warns of instability after protest calls

  • El-Sisi thanked Egyptians for not heeding the calls, saying the government was undertaking the measures as part of reforms
  • The small-scale demonstrations come amid mounting anger against government campaigns to stop illegal construction

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi warned on Sunday against attempts to stoke instability in the country, following a recent spate of scattered and small-scale anti-government protests.
“Some people have been trying in recent weeks to take advantage of the tough measures we are taking,” El-Sisi said at a ceremony to inaugurate an oil refining complex north of Cairo.
“They choose the hard conditions to harm and cast doubts among Egyptians over what we do.”
Dozens of people took part in rare protests in recent days in several villages in Egypt, according to videos shared widely on social media, especially by sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed group.
The small-scale demonstrations come amid mounting anger, particularly in rural and low-income areas, against sweeping government campaigns to stop illegal construction, which have required people to pay fines to legalize home-ownership.
Exiled businessman Mohamed Ali, who has urged anti-El-Sisi protests since last year, has intensified his calls in recent weeks in online videos, calling on Egyptians take to the streets against the government.
During his speech, El-Sisi thanked Egyptians for not heeding the calls, saying the government was undertaking the measures as part of reforms.
On Saturday, family and medical sources said a man was killed in clashes between protesters and police in a village south of Cairo.