LONDON: A viral video showing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s millionaire cousin Ali Makhlouf cruising around Los Angeles in his $300,000 Ferrari 488 Spider has highlighted the stark divisions in a war-torn country where many people do not have enough to eat.
The video, which was apparently caught randomly, showed popular vlogger Daniel Mac standing near a traffic light in LA when Makhlouf rolled by in his luxurious car alongside his Israeli model girlfriend Michal Idan.
As per Mac’s standard, he asked Makhlouf what he did for a living, to which the latter replied that he worked, before saying that he was at an internship after further playful prodding by the vlogger. At the end, he said that the car was a rental before driving off.
What is even more telling is that Makhlouf is seemingly dating an Israeli model.
Syria’s Golan Heights have been occupied by the Israelis for years; the US recognized them as Israeli in 2019. And Israel has continuously attacked Iranian troops and Iran’s proxies across Syria with fighter jets, and so Makhlouf’s dealing with — even dating — the enemy could be regarded as treason.
Past lavish living
This is not the first time the Makhloufs’ lavish lifestyles, and their business ties to the Assad regime, have come to light. However, ties between Assad and his cousin, Rami Makhlouf — Ali’s father — are said to be strained after the US-sanctioned Syrian businessman revealed last year that he had set up a web of offshore front companies to help Assad evade Western sanctions.
Strained or not, the Makhloufs’ splurging has repeatedly caught the media’s eye and placed them under severe scrutiny, with Ali seemingly lacking any sense of moral responsibility when posting items on his social media accounts.
During the pandemic, Ali took to his Instagram account to show a video of him celebrating his birthday in Dubai by blowing out a cake in front of at least four MacBooks and two iPads — one for each of his friends beaming in via Zoom.
Other posts to his page include collections of luxury cars, mansions and even a couple of jet skis.
The average Syrian earns between $70 and $130 per month and, with the country still reeling from its decades-long war and with Assad firmly in power, this may not be the last the world hears of Makhlouf’s lavish spending.