Syrian government orders seizure of assets for Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf

Syrian business tycoon Rami Makhlouf, right, and President Bashar al-Assad [Photo: Libyan Express]
The Syrian government has ordered the seizure of assets belonging to Bashar al-Assad’s cousin, the business tycoon Rami Makhlouf, as well as those of his wife and children, according to a document issued by Syria’s finance ministry. 

The document, stamped May 19 and signed by the Syrian finance minister, said the “precautionary seizure” aimed to guarantee payment of sums owed to the Syrian telecom regulatory authority.

Makhlouf appealed to al-Assad late last month in a video posted on social media, urging the president to give his business time to pay overdue taxes in order to avoid collapse.

The government says Syriatel owes 134 billion pounds, around $77m at the current exchange rate on the parallel market.

Makhlouf on Tuesday posted a letter dated May 18, denying allegations by the Ministry of Telecoms that Syriatel had rejected payment of amounts it was required to pay in a dispute over its licence.

The telecom tycoon has long been seen as a pillar of the Syrian government since al-Assad rose to power in 2000, succeeding his father, Hafez.

But rumours have swirled in recent months of souring ties between Makhlouf and al-Assad, who is spearheading an anti-graft campaign in a bid to shore up state finances.

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