Syrian government orders seizure of assets of Assad’s cousin Makhlouf

Makhlouf has addressed the dispute in three extraordinary online video messages in which he has appealed to Assad himself to help save his firm. (AFP)
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Updated 19 May 2020

Syrian government orders seizure of assets of Assad’s cousin Makhlouf

  • Public rift is a rare confrontation at the very top of the Syrian elite
  • Makhlouf helped to finance Assad's war effort, and is under US and EU sanctions

BEIRUT: The Syrian government ordered the seizure of assets belonging to President Bashar Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, one of Syria’s richest men, as well as his wife and children, according to a government document reviewed by Reuters.
The document, stamped May 19 and signed by the Syrian finance minister, said the “precautionary seizure” aimed to guarantee payment of sums owned to the Syrian telecom regulatory authority.
Once at the heart of Assad’s inner circle, Makhlouf has quarrelled with the authorities over funds which the government says are owed by his mobile phone company Syriatel. The unprecedented public tussle has uncovered a rare rift in the ruling elite.
Makhlouf has addressed the dispute in three extraordinary online video messages in which he has appealed to Assad himself to help save his firm. In his last message, released on Sunday, Makhlouf said he had been told to quit as the head of Syriatel.
The government says Syriatel owes 134 billion pounds, around $77 million at the current exchange rate on the parallel market.
Makhlouf on Tuesday posted a letter dated May 18 denying allegations by the Ministry of Telecoms that Syriatel had rejected payment of amounts it was required to pay in a dispute over its license.
Makhlouf, a maternal cousin of Assad, played a big role in financing Assad’s war effort in the conflict under way since 2011, Western officials have said. He is under US and EU sanctions.
In addition to telecoms, his business empire spans real estate, construction and oil trading.
Syria experts say the row could mark the first major rift in decades within the family that has ruled the country since Assad’s father Hafez took power 50 years ago.


Turkey to arrest 82 including mayor over pro-Kurdish protests

Updated 53 min 55 sec ago

Turkey to arrest 82 including mayor over pro-Kurdish protests

ANKARA: Turkish authorities on Friday issued arrest warrants for 82 people, including a mayor, over pro-Kurdish protests six years ago, officials and local media said.
The warrants relate to October 2014 protests in Turkey sparked by the seizure by Islamic State (IS) jihadists of the mainly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobane.
Police were on the hunt for the 82 suspects in the Turkish capital and six other provinces, the Ankara chief public prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The prosecutor's office did not specify what offences the 82 are alleged to have committed.
But it said crimes committed during the protests included murder, attempted murder, theft, damaging property, looting, burning the Turkish flag and injuring 326 security officials and 435 citizens.
There was also a warrant for the mayor of the eastern city of Kars, Ayhan Bilgen, Hurriyet daily reported.
Bilgen won the city in 2019 local elections representing the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which is Turkey's second-largest opposition group in the parliament.
Of a total of 65 HDP mayors returned in those elections, 47 have now been replaced by unelected officials, with some detained on terror charges, the party said last month.
The Turkish government accuses the HDP of being a political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party -- which has waged an insurgency against the state since 1984 -- but the party denies this.
Former HDP co-leaders, Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, were named in the investigation but both have been in jail since 2016 pending multiple trials.
The government accused the HDP of urging people to take part in the protests across Turkey that left 37 dead.
But the HDP blames Turkish police for the violence.