Plummeting Syrian pound hits new black market low

A specialized website put the volatile exchange rate at 975 pounds to the dollar — more than double the official rate of 434 Syrian pounds. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Plummeting Syrian pound hits new black market low

  • The drop comes amid a spiraling liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon
  • A specialized website put the volatile rate at 975 pounds to the dollar — more than double the official rate of 434 Syrian pounds

DAMASCUS: The value of the Syrian pound on the black market sank to 1,000 to the dollar at some money changers Tuesday, marking a new record low for the nosediving currency.
The drop comes amid a spiraling liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon, which has long served as a conduit for foreign currency entering the heavily sanctioned government-held areas of Syria.
One currency exchange office in the Syrian capital Damascus said he was selling dollars on the black market for 1,000 pounds for the first time on Tuesday.
A specialized website put the volatile rate at 975 pounds to the dollar — more than double the official rate of 434 Syrian pounds posted by the central bank on its website.
At the start of the war in 2011, the rate stood at around 48 pounds to the dollar.
In the Old City of Damascus, a trader who preferred not to give his name said everything from food to transport had become more expensive in recent weeks.
“Prices have doubled in the past two months,” the trader said.
“Everybody prices their items according to the new dollar exchange rate” on the black market, he explained.
Syria analyst Samuel Ramani said the pound had fallen by 30 percent since anti-government protests erupted in Lebanon on October 17.
An economic downturn has accelerated since the protests started, and a liquidity crunch has become more acute in a country that has long served as an economic and financial lifeline for dollar-starved Syrian businesses.
As Western sanctions tightened on Syria during the war, many in the country have opened businesses in neighboring Lebanon, stashed their money in its banks and used the country as a conduit for imports.
But Lebanese banks started introducing controls on dollar withdrawals over the summer, straining the supply of the greenback to Syrian markets.
“Lebanese banks are significant for Syria’s economy as they give Syria back door access to the US dollar,” he said.
“Based on commentaries from Syrian businesspeople, it appears as if the economic crisis in Syria is even worse than that in Lebanon as a result of the protests,” Ramani said.
In another part of Damascus, a 30-year-old working in a shop selling computers and mobile phones imported from Lebanon said the store had to increase all prices.
“In the end this is going to be reflected in the market and most people won’t be able to pay according to the new prices,” the young salesman said.
“We fear further collapse,” he added.
Syria’s eight-year civil war has battered the country’s economy, and depleted its foreign currency reserves.
An array of international sanctions has targeted President Bashar Assad’s regime and associated businessmen since the start of the war in 2011.
Authorities estimate that since 2011, Syria’s key oil and gas sector has suffered some $74 billion in losses.
The United Nations estimates the conflict has caused some $400 billion in war-related destruction.
It has also killed 370,000 people and displaced millions more.


Former Wirecard COO Marsalek’s entry into Philippines forged, justice minister says

Updated 04 July 2020

Former Wirecard COO Marsalek’s entry into Philippines forged, justice minister says

  • Immigration officers who inputted the fictitious entries have been relieved of their duties and face administrative sanctions

MANILA: Immigration records showing Wirecard’s former chief operating officer Jan Marsalek arrived in the Philippines on June 23 and departed for China the next day were falsified, Philippines Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Saturday.
Guevarra said the immigration officers who inputted the fictitious entries have been relieved of their duties and face administrative sanctions.
“The investigation has now turned to persons who made the false entries in the database, their motives and their cohorts,” Guevarra told reporters.
Marsalek, 40, was fired as COO of the German firm on June 18 after auditor EY refused to sign off on Wirecard’s accounts. The company, once one of the hottest fintech companies in Europe, collapsed a week later owing creditors almost $4 billion after disclosing a $2.1 billion hole in its accounts that auditor EY said was the result of a sophisticated global fraud.
The missing money was purportedly held in escrow accounts at two Philippine banks, which have denied any links with the Wirecard.
Guevarra said it was possible Marsalek could be in the country, telling Reuters, “Notwithstanding the Bureau of Immigration report, I do not totally discount the possibility that Marsalek may be in the Philippines.”
“We are an island country, and there are backdoors through which undocumented foreigners may slip through,” he said.
Munich prosecutors obtained arrest warrants against ex-CEO Markus Braun and Marsalek on June 22. Braun turned himself in that day, but Marsalek has disappeared and his mobile number is no longer in service.
Both are suspected of market manipulation, false accounting and fraud, while the circle of suspects has widened to the entire management board of Wirecard.
Marsalek’s lawyer has declined all requests for comment.
Marsalek had oversight of Wirecard’s Asian operations, which are at the center of suspicion by auditors and prosecutors of attempts to falsely inflate cash balances, turnover and profit.
Guevarra said earlier immigration records had shown that Marsalek had been in the Philippines from March 3 to 5.