Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf to decline government request to step down despite 'threats'

Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf to decline government request to step down despite 'threats'
The owner of Syria's largest telecommunication company said his business was pressured with several 'unlawful' demands from authorities who threatened to revoke its license and carry out more arrests.
2 min read
17 May, 2020
Western officials have said that the businessman was part of the Assad's inner circle [AFP]
Syrian billionaire and cousin of President Bashar al-Assad, Rami Makhlouf said on Sunday that he would not resign from telecommunications company Syriatel in spite of a deadline set by the regime.

In a new Facebook video that marked his third public announcement, Makhlouf said Syrian authorities called for his resignation, threatening to arrest him and revoke Syriatel's license should he not comply.

Makhlouf, who heads Syriatel, has been embroiled in a power struggle with the Assad government since last year, when his Al-Bustan charity was seized and his militias were dissolved.

In the 16-minute video, he lashed out at the Syrian government in fresh accusations, claiming he was given "till Sunday" to respond to regime pressures.

"If you don't comply ... the licence will be revoked and they said you have until Sunday to either comply or the company will be taken and its assets seized," Makhlouf said in the video.

It remained unclear if Makhlouf meant this Sunday or the next.

The collapse of Syriatel, which employs some 6,500 people, will deal a blow to Syria's economy, according to the tycoon.

Read more: Billionaire cousin of Syria's Assad publicly complains of 'suffering' at the hands of regime

Makhlouf said authorities were demanding a forefeit of company profits. 

The businessman claimed he was asked to hand over "120 percent of the profits" 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.

Earlier in the month, Makhlouf accused Syria's security forces of arresting Syriatel employees in an "inhumane way" in an unprecedented attack from within the system by one of the country's most influential figures. 

In the more recent video, Makhlouf made a reference to the alleged arrests, and said "we could not do anything" regarding those detained. 

"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 added.

Western officials have said that Makhlouf was part of the Assad's inner circle and was involved in financing war efforts.

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