Syrian lira crashes after tycoon Rami Makhlouf criticises Assad regime in new video

Syrian lira crashes after tycoon Rami Makhlouf criticises Assad regime in new video
Rami Makhlouf has made a series of videos criticising elements of the Assad regime.
3 min read
18 May, 2020
Makhlouf has made a number of challenges to the Syrian regime [Getty]
The Syrian lira crashed to a new low on Monday, after a new video was released by business tycoon Rami Makhlouf over the weekend, in which he appeared to again challenge Bashar Al-Assad's regime.

Makhlouf posted a third video on his Facebook account on Sunday, in which he continued his criticism of elements of the regime.

He also vowed to ignore calls to resign as chief of telecommunications company Syriatel, after pressure from state officials to do so.

On Monday, the lira - also known as the pound - crashed to 2,000 to the dollar on the blackmarket, after its rapid decline over the weekend.

It is a new low for the Syrian currency which was 45 liras to the dollar before protests erupted in 2011, leading to 500,000 Syrians killed and half the population displaced after a bloody regime suppression of the revolt.

The lira has plummeted significantly after each video made by Makhlouf, known as Syria's richest man and a cousin of Bashar Al-Assad.

In the 16-minute video on Sunday, Makhlouf said regime officials ordered him to resign as head of Syriatel, threatening to end the telecommunication company's license if he did not comply.

Makhlouf also claimed that he was told to hand over "120 percent of the profits" of the company to the state or "be arrested".

"This would mean one would have to maybe pay 20 percent from their pockets... This can't be," Makhlouf said.

He also said that hundreds of his employees have been detained by the regime, following what he calls a campaign of "harassment" by Syrian intelligence.
Since then, the lira crashed to 2,000 liras to the dollar, after similar dramatic falls since Makhlouf's first video on 30 April and second appeal a few days later.

They are seen as the first public challenge to Assad's rule by members of the regime's inner-circle since war erupted in 2011.

In the videos, Makhlouf complained of intelligence chiefs threatening his business and arresting employees due to his "charity work".

"There are no official or legal procedures. Everything is unlawful... This approach and its continuation will lead only to the destruction of the company," Makhlouf said in the first video.

Makhlouf is believed to be Syria's richest man and controls as much as 60 percent of the Syrian economy, due to his business interests in every sector from telecommunications and airlines to schools and charities.

He also commands a powerful militia through his Al-Bustan Association.

The dispute is said to centre on a "debt" owed by Syriatel to the state, although others see the campaign against Makhlouf as an attempt by Assad's inner-circle to carve up his business empire.

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