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The New Arab

Syrian regime seizes assets of tycoon and Assad cousin Rami Makhlouf

Makhlouf has released three videos criticising the Assad regime [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 May, 2020

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Syrian tycoon and cousin of President Bashar Al-Assad, Rami Makhlouf, has made three videos challenging the regime, prompting a response from authorities.
The Syrian regime has seized the assets of tycoon Rami Makhlouf, according to media reports, hours after he released a new video on social media that hit out at the state.

Makhlouf, who is also Bashar Al-Assad's cousin, released a third video on social media on Sunday in which he complained of harassment by regime officials.

He said that he had been ordered to resign as head of SyriaTel and hand over 120 percent of the company's profits to the state.

In the previous two videos Makhlouf complained that his business interests had been targeted by regime officials, particularly his stake in telecommunications giant SyriaTel.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that a document signed by Syria's finance minister and dated 19 May had ordered Makhlouf's assets be seized by the state.

"The document, stamped May 19 and signed by the Syrian finance minister, said the 'precautionary seizure' aimed to guarantee payment of sums owned to the Syrian telecom regulatory authority," Reuters reported.

Maklouf was a close ally of Assad and controlled as much as 60 percent of the Syrian economy, but has kept a low profile during the war.

The three Facebook videos were the first time the regime has been publically challenged by Bashar Al-Assad's inner-circle since the start of a revolt against regime rule in 2011.

Makhlouf has been careful not to directly criticise Assad in the videos but has taken aim at Syria's powerful intelligence agencies and the state which has issued his companies huge fines.

Thought to be Syria's richest man, Makhlouf has stakes in most sectors in the Syrian economy, from schools and charities to oil and telecommunications.

Some view the campaign against Makhlouf as part of attempts by the cash-strapped state to obtain money and also allow other figures close to Assad to extend their business interests in an economy dominated by Makhlouf.

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