US sanctions Syrian businessman Samer Foz, entities for links to Assad

Sanctions were placed on Syrian businessman Samer Foz, a Syrian industrialist behind high-end developments - including the Four Seasons hotel in Damascus - for enriching Bashar Assad. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 12 June 2019

US sanctions Syrian businessman Samer Foz, entities for links to Assad

  • US on Tuesday imposed sanctions on Samer Foz for links to Assad
  • Treasury said also sanctioning entities that imported Iranian oil into Syria

WASHINGTON: The US on Tuesday imposed sanctions on Samer Foz, a Syrian industrialist behind high-end developments, including the Four Seasons hotel in Damascus, for allegedly enriching President Bashar Assad.

"This Syrian oligarch is directly supporting the murderous Assad regime and building luxury developments on land stolen from those fleeing his brutality," Sigal Mandelker, the undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in an announcement.

Sanctions were placed on Syrian businessman Foz and his family, who have close ties to Assad and who Washington said has made millions by developing properties on land seized from those who have fled the Syrian war.

The sanctions were being placed on Foz, his siblings Amer and Husen, and the family-owned Aman Holding, a company run by the Foz family from the coastal city of Latakia, the Treasury said.

Foz-owned ASM International General Trading and its affiliates throughout the Middle East were also included in the sanctions. ASM is involved in grain and sugar trade, and oil field operations.

"Samer Foz, his relatives, and his business empire have leveraged the atrocities of the Syrian conflict into a profit-generating enterprise," Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

The Treasury Department said Foz had shipped into Syria oil from its ally Iran, despite unilateral US sanctions on all exports out of the Islamic republic.

In the notice, the Treasury Department also said that Foz had taken advantage of an order issued by Assad in 2012 to expel residents of poorer areas to make way for luxury construction.

"This tactic -- taking over property owned by Syrian citizens and handing the land to wealthy regime insiders to develop in exchange for revenue sharing -- has emerged as Assad's go-to strategy for high-end reconstruction in war-torn Syria," the Treasury Department said.

Under the sanctions, any of Foz's US assets will be frozen and any US transactions with him or his properties forbidden.

The US Treasury said it was also sanctioning Synergy SAL and BS Company, which have imported tens of thousands of metric tons of Iranian oil into Syria.

Meanwhile, the Four Seasons hotel has become a base for UN employees working in Syria, a point of controversy for Assad opponents who question where the money paid by international staff goes.

 


Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

Updated 13 November 2019

Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

  • Altan and the others deny the charges against them
  • On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing

ISTANBUL: Turkish police detained prominent journalist and author Ahmet Altan late on Tuesday, a week after he was released from prison in his retrial on coup-related charges, Istanbul police said.

Before his release last Monday, the 69-year-old had been in jail since his arrest in 2016, two months after an attempted coup which Ankara says was orchestrated by the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The journalist’s case has drawn criticism from human rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies. They are concerned by the scale of a post-coup crackdown against suspected Gulen supporters under President Tayyip Erdogan.

Altan smiled and waved as he was driven away by counter-terror squad police officers after being taken from his home in Istanbul, video and photos published by Turkish media showed.

He was taken to Istanbul police headquarters after a hospital check-up, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

Altan, his brother and other journalists were previously sentenced to life in jail for aiding Gulen’s network. Last week he was convicted again in a retrial, but released from jail given the time served.

Altan and the others deny the charges against them.

On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing, Anadolu reported.

Under last week’s verdict, Altan was sentenced to 10 years and six months in jail. Turkey’s high court had overruled the previous life sentences against him in July, sending the file back for re-trial.

Erdogan’s government has jailed more than 77,000 people pending trial since the failed putsch. Widespread arrests are still routine in a crackdown critics say demonstrates growing autocracy in Turkey.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, and his followers deny any involvement in the coup. Turkey has repeatedly called on the United States to extradite the cleric.