Syrian company Wafa Telecom 'has links to Iran Revolutionary Guards': report

Syrian company Wafa Telecom 'has links to Iran Revolutionary Guards': report
Syrian mobile operator Wafa Telecom shares links with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a new investigation has found, despite Syrian regime efforts to mask the company's ties with Tehran.
2 min read
13 December, 2022
Companies and individuals directly tied to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been revealed to be involved with Syria's latest telecom company, Wafa Telecom [Getty]

Syria's newest telecommunication company may have ties to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an investigation by two leading Syria-focused NGOs has uncovered.

Foreign investors in Wafa Telecom, a company founded in 2017 but only granted a licence by the Syrian regime in February of this year, have multiple links to the IRGC, the probe by the Organised Crime and Corruption and Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Syrian Network Observatory found.

Yasar Ibrahim, a financial proxy for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, co-founded Wafa Telecom with the stated aim of improving cellular networks in Syria, given the devastation the country's infrastructure had seen in years of a civil war that began in 2011.

Company CEO Ghassan Saba previously denied speculation that Iran-affiliated entities invested in the firm, and earlier this year, Syria’s communication and technology minister Iyad al-Khatib affirmed that the company was locally funded.

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A 52 percent stake in Wafa was said to be held by a company identified as the Arabian Business Company (ABC), which was registered in October 2019 in the Damascus Free Trade Zone where disclosure requirements are limited.

However, ABC was listed as a 'national company', with no indication of Iranian links.

ABC's shareholders were later revealed to be a Syrian businessman and a Malaysian company called Tioman Golden Treasure, owned by a US-sanctioned individual with ties to the IRGC, who are otherwise known as the Revolutionary Guards, until 2019.

Today, the Iran-linked Malaysian company partially owns the firm, with two other Malaysian officers revealed to have connections to sanctioned firms with a history of supporting the Guards.

The joint OCCRP and Syrian Network Observatory probe found that ABC's 'national' listing was made to conceal the company's Iranian links, for which it could have been hit by sanctions.

One insider told the investigation that Iran's involvement in Wafa was so extensive that the company was effectively "a partnership between the Syrian government and the Revolutionary Guard", with Iran involved in the firm since the company's inception.

Iran is a key ally of Assad and his regime, helping prop up his brutal rule through investments in the sectors including real estate and phosphate mining.

More than 500,000 people have died as a result of Syria's civil war, largely at the hands of President Bashar al-Assad's forces and his most powerful ally, Russia.

The IRGC has played a key role in suppressing dissent in Iran, including the ongoing nationwide protests.