Embattled Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf says targeted companies were used to evade US sanctions

Embattled Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf says targeted companies were used to evade US sanctions
Rami Makhlouf said that overseas companies being targeted by the Syrian regime were set up to evade US sanctions.
2 min read
27 July, 2020
Makhlouf is thought to be Syria's richest man [Facebook]
Embattled Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf has claimed that his overseas companies that are currently being investigated by regime officials on charges of corruption were set-up to evade US sanctions.

In the latest of a series of contentious social media posts, Makhlouf appealed to his cousin, Bashar Al-Assad, to end the regime's targeting of his Sham Holdings business empire over alleged tax evasion.

He said that the overseas companies currently being investigated for embezzlement were set-up to avoid US sanctions on Cham Holding.

"They fabricated our embezzlement of funds and transferring it to our accounts abroad... Stop these unjust claims and read well the contracts," Makhlouf said on Facebook, according to Reuters.

"These companies' role and aim is to circumvent (Western) sanctions on Cham Holding."

Makhlouf is believed to be Syria's richest man and his Sham Holding consortium the biggest private company in the country.

He and his employees have been targeted by regime security and government officials over alleged corruption, with the state demanding a payment of billions of dollars in owed taxes.

Makhlouf has accused officials of a "shake down" and said profits from his companies helped Assad stay in power and went towards charity.

He claimed that his vast business empire only managed to evade tough US sanctions due to the offshore front companies.

Makhlouf is accused by the US and others of being one of Bashar Al-Assad's main financiers and operating a militia force that has contributed to the regime's bloody suppression.

Makhlouf first made his grievances with the Assad regime public in April, claiming that he was being made to foot an enormous tax bill.

Since then Makhlouf has made more complaints on social media, claiming that he and his employees were being unfairly targeted by regime intelligence.

The US imposed its latest round of sanctions against Syrian regime officials following the passing of the Caesar Act earlier this year.

Some analysts believe the campaign against Makhlouf is a way of the cash-strapped Syrian regime shoring up more cash and cut down the power of the political and business actor.

The Syria war broke out in 2011, when the regime attempted to violently crush peaceful protests leading to an armed insurgency.

The war has since cost at least 550,000 lives, the vast majority civilians killed by regime bombing and shelling.

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