Syria using shell companies to bypass sanctions, report claims

Syria using shell companies to bypass sanctions, report claims
A poster of President Bashar Assad, Damascus, Syria, May 22, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 March 2022

Syria using shell companies to bypass sanctions, report claims

Syria using shell companies to bypass sanctions, report claims
  • Investigation finds ‘intricate web’ linking firms to Bashar Assad and allies
  • Experts say more must be done to prevent regime’s ‘craft’ of curbs evasion

LONDON: Syria is using shell companies to bypass sanctions imposed by the West, a report by the Guardian has revealed.

The paper claims documents it has obtained show three companies — Trappist, Generous and Super Brandy, which were all set up on the same day in October last year — have links to President Bashar Assad and his allies, including individuals sanctioned by the US, EU and UK.

The trio are majority-owned by regime figures through “an intricate web of connections,” the Guardian said, including part ownership of third party companies, in order to indirectly control other entities and trade in shares.

Individuals involved include Yasar Hussein Ibrahim, head of the economic and financial office of the Syrian presidency and an adviser to Assad, and businessman Nasser Deeb Deeb, both of whom are under sanctions by the US.

The pair exercise control through part ownership of other companies in partnership with other businessmen and women, which have interests in the shell companies. Ibrahim, for instance, is a part owner of telecoms company Wafa JSC, which is also part owned by another firm called Tele Space, whose owner, Ali Najib Ibrahim, is a co-owner of the three shell companies.

Another sanctioned individual linked with indirect control of a shell company is Khodr Ali Taher, who has been sanctioned by the UK and EU for his connections to the regime, and has also been accused of playing a role in the smuggling and sale of amphetamines.

The system allows the regime to stay a step ahead of countries and blocs who have imposed sanctions, propping up areas of the economy and frustrating efforts to further punish the government in Damascus for its repeated human rights abuses.

The US government passed the so-called Caesar Acts in 2020, which allowed it to target regime affiliates with sanctions, but so far has not used them against any individual or company.

Meanwhile, the UK has only imposed one new set of sanctions on regime figures since officially leaving the EU the same year.

Muhammad Samer Al-Khalil, the Syrian economy minister, said in October 2021 that evading sanctions had “become a Syrian craft.”

Eyad Hamid, a senior researcher at the Syrian Legal Development Program, told the Guardian: “It is important (to continue to track shell companies) as it is part of the asset freeze and drying-up of resources the regime is using to violate human rights in Syria.

“The (Biden) administration’s sanctions have been very limited and, in a way, they do not have the appetite that was in the previous administration to impose sanctions on individuals in Syria.”

Justine Walker, head of global sanctions at the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists, told the Guardian: “Part of (sanctions) is to ensure a company doesn’t continue operations and isn’t able to set up (in the first place).”

She added that more needed to be done to ensure the practice was tackled, preventing the regime from circumventing the international community.

“If you can imagine how many companies are set up in Syria, it’s outside the bandwidth of governments, so investigation specialists and due-diligence providers play a crucial role.”

Hamid agreed, saying: “There needs to be more investment, investigations and on-the-ground sources to keep up with these changes in the Syrian business scene because it’s not a stable environment; it keeps shifting.”


UN rights chief sounds alarm at number of Palestinian children killed, condemns lack of accountability

UN rights chief sounds alarm at number of Palestinian children killed, condemns lack of accountability
Updated 22 min 52 sec ago

UN rights chief sounds alarm at number of Palestinian children killed, condemns lack of accountability

UN rights chief sounds alarm at number of Palestinian children killed, condemns lack of accountability
  • High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said a ‘climate of impunity’ is driving endless cycles of violence
  • So far this year 37 Palestinian children have been killed, including 19 during the intense fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad last weekend

NEW YORK: The UN’s human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, on Thursday expressed alarm at the “unconscionable” number of Palestinian children who have been killed or injured this year, and called for all incidents to be thoroughly investigated.

The figures soared last weekend during intense fighting between Israeli authorities and the Islamic Jihad group, and subsequent Israeli enforcement operations in the West Bank.

In the past week alone, 19 Palestinian children were killed in the Occupied Territories, raising the death toll since the start of the year to 37.

“Inflicting hurt on any child during the course of conflict is deeply disturbing, and the killing and maiming of so many children this year is unconscionable,” said Bachelet, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights.

A number of Israeli military strikes hit “prima facie civilian objects,” she added, resulting in deaths and damage to infrastructure.

“International humanitarian law is clear,” she said. “Launching an attack which may be expected to incidentally kill or injure civilians, or damage civilian objects, in disproportionate manner to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited. Such attacks must stop.”

Bachelet also highlighted the violations of international humanitarian law by Palestinian armed groups who “launched hundreds of rockets and mortars in indiscriminate attacks, causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects in Israel as well as in Gaza.”

According to Israeli authorities, 70 Israelis were injured during the fighting.

While the ceasefire that halted the latest violent escalation in Gaza is holding, tensions remain extremely high in the West Bank, where four Palestinians were killed and 90 injured on Aug. 9 by shots fired by Israeli forces.

Among the fatalities was a 16-year-old boy shot by Israeli soldiers during an arrest raid in Nablus, which also left 76 people injured. Another 16-year-old boy was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in Hebron after some Palestinians threw rocks and fireworks at them.

“The widespread use of live ammunition by Israeli forces in law enforcement operations across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 2022 has led to an alarming increase in Palestinian fatalities,” Bachelet said.

So far this year, 74 Palestinians have been killed, many as a result of the use of lethal force by Israeli authorities in a manner described by the UN Human Rights Office in the Occupied Territories as a violation of international human rights law.

Bachelet called for “prompt, independent, impartial, thorough and transparent investigations” into all incidents in which any person is killed or injured.

“An almost total lack of accountability persists in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, whether for violations of international humanitarian law by all parties in hostilities in Gaza, or for recurring Israeli violations of international human rights law and the law of occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, including incidents of unnecessary and disproportionate use of force,” she said.

“This climate of impunity, along with the long-standing violations, drives the cycle of violence and the recurrence of violations.

“The situation in Palestine is extremely fragile. The utmost restraint is necessary to prevent further bloodshed, including by ensuring that firearms are used strictly in compliance with international standards.”


Russian officials trained in Iran as part of drone deal, US says

Russian officials trained in Iran as part of drone deal, US says
Updated 24 sec ago

Russian officials trained in Iran as part of drone deal, US says

Russian officials trained in Iran as part of drone deal, US says

WASHINGTON: Russian officials trained in Iran in recent weeks as part of an agreement on the transfer of drones between the two countries, the US State Department said on Thursday.
US officials said last month that Washington had information that Iran was preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred drones, including some that are weapons capable, and that Russian officials had visited Iran to view attack-capable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The claim raised concerns that Iran, which has supplied drones to its allies in the Middle East, was now giving support to Russia for its war in Ukraine.
Iran’s foreign minister at the time denied the claim, including in a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.
US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters during a phone briefing on Thursday that Russian officials had conducted training on drones in Iran “in the last several weeks.”
The United States would “vigorously enforce” its sanctions on both Russian and Iranian weapons trading, he said. The transfers of drones between the two countries was “potentially sanctionable under numerous authorities,” Patel said.
“We remain incredibly concerned about Iran’s use and proliferation of UAVs. They have been used to attack US forces, our partners in the region, and international shipping entities,” Patel said. 


Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation
Updated 11 August 2022

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation
  • Navy boats and Lebanese Civil Defense teams responded to assist the stricken vessel

BEIRUT: The crew of a Lebanese Army speed cruiser that was taking part in a security operation off Al-Saadiyat coast on Thursday had to be rescued after their vessel caught fire, according to a statement by the army.

Later it was revealed that seven crew members were saved from the burning vessel.
Other navy boats and Lebanese Civil Defense teams responded to assist the stricken vessel and help put out the fire.

No casualties were reported.


UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
Updated 11 August 2022

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
  • Part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery

DUBAI: The UAE will issue a new generation of Emirati passports from Sept. 1, authorities said on Thursday.

The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP) said the new passports, equipped with the latest technologies, will have advanced security features.

 

 

The new-generation passports are part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery or fraud, according to Ali Muhammad Al-Shamsi, Chairman of ICP, in a report from state news agency WAM.

The complex security specifications feature a polycarbonate introduction page, laser technologies and “three-dimensional tangible elements.”

Authorities said holders of the current passports can still use their travel document until expiry.


Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
Updated 11 August 2022

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
  • Cairo, Khartoum fear it will reduce their share of Nile waters
  • Egypt says it will take all necessary measures to protect national security

CAIRO: In a letter to the UN Security Council, Egypt has warned of cracks in the concrete facade of the sub-dam linked to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Cairo said this is particularly alarming due to Ethiopia’s failure to comply with its duty to conduct the required environmental and socioeconomic impact studies.

The letter, sent to the UNSC president, said Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Aty had received a message about Ethiopia’s intention to unilaterally resume filling the GERD during the current rainy season.

Abdel-Aty said Ethiopia’s decision comes in the absence of an agreement between it and Egypt and Sudan on the rules governing the filling and operation of the dam, constituting a violation of the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries.

He stressed that Cairo holds Ethiopia fully responsible for any significant harm that may be caused to Egypt by these repeated violations.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the country reserves its right guaranteed in the UN Charter to take all necessary measures to ensure and protect its national security, including against any harm that Ethiopia’s unilateral measures may cause.

The GERD has raised tensions between Ethiopia on one hand and Egypt and Sudan on the other.

The latter two countries are demanding a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, which they fear will reduce their share of the Nile’s waters.

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