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.


UN warns of possible ‘war crimes’ in Turkish-controlled Syria

Updated 27 min 10 sec ago

UN warns of possible ‘war crimes’ in Turkish-controlled Syria

  • The victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties or as being critical of the actions of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups, Bachelet’s office said
  • Those affiliated groups have also seized and looted houses, land and property without any apparent military necessity, said OHCHR

GENEVA: Armed groups in the area of northern Syria controlled by Turkey may have committed war crimes and other violations of international law, the UN rights chief said Friday.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the situation in those areas of Syria was grim, with violence and criminality rife.
In a statement, Bachelet’s UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said it had noted an “alarming pattern in recent months of grave violations,” having documented increased killings, kidnappings, unlawful transfers of people, seizures of land and properties and forcible evictions.
The victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties or as being critical of the actions of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups, Bachelet’s office said.
Those affiliated groups have also seized and looted houses, land and property without any apparent military necessity, said OHCHR.
Furthermore, increased infighting among the various Turkish-affiliated armed groups over power-sharing was causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
Turkey controls large stretches of northeastern Syria through various armed groups, and is conducting operations aimed at driving out Kurdish militias and extremists.
In October last year, Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies occupied a 120-kilometer (75-mile) stretch of land inside the Syrian border from Kurdish forces.
Ankara has also deployed forces in several military posts it established in northwestern Idlib as part of a 2018 deal with regime ally Moscow, while Turkey also controls a stretch of territory along its border in neighboring Aleppo province following a series of military offensives since 2016.Bachelet’s office said it had documented the abduction and disappearance of civilians, including women and children.
It also said that from the start of the year until last Monday, it had verified the deaths of at least 116 civilians as a result of improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war, while a further 463 civilians were injured.
“I urge Turkey to immediately launch an impartial, transparent and independent investigation into the incidents we have verified, account for the fate of those detained and abducted by the affiliated armed groups and hold accountable those responsible for what may, in some instances, amount to crimes under international law, including war crimes,” Bachelet said.
“This is all the more vital given that we have received disturbing reports that some detainees and abductees have allegedly been transferred to Turkey following their detention in Syria by affiliated armed groups.”
Meanwhile Bachelet voiced concern that parties to the conflict in Syria were using essential services as a weapon.
“Impeding access to water, sanitation and electricity endangers the lives of large numbers of people, a danger rendered all the more acute amid fighting a global pandemic,” she said.