Bashar al-Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf has widened the split in the family and Syria’s regime with a second Facebook video.
On Thursday, Makhlouf complained about the regime’s stripping of his assets, begging Assad to prevent the collapse of the telecommunication company that helped the billionaire accumulate his fortune.
With no apparent response from the Syrian leader, the tycoon tried again on Sunday, asserting that the regime’s intelligence services are detaining his personnel.
Makhlouf, in a new video, says that "the pressures have reached an unacceptable level … the intelligence apparatuses started arresting our employees. Can anyone imagine that the intelligence apparatuses would go after the companies of Rami Makhlouf?"https://t.co/GUVnWkSyCC
— Asser Khattab (@KhattabAsser) May 3, 2020
He proclaimed his loyalty to the regime as “the biggest supporter of those intelligence apparatuses, was their biggest servant, was their biggest sponsor during the war”. Then he claimed:
I have been asked to let go of those companies, and comply with instructions, with my eyes shut. The pressures have started with detaining those employees, some of them managers.
These pressures have reached a disgusting and dangerous level; we cannot continue like this, people. This is called injustice, I swear. This is called trespassing on private properties.
“Mr. President, I’m Asking You to Be Fair”
Makhlouf, 50, made his fortune with his place in the Assad plutocracy, controlling companies such as Syriatel, the largest telecommunications network in Syria, and retail, banking, and real estate firms.
Sanctioned by the US and the European Union since 2008, Makhlouf was said to be worth $5 billion, controlling more than half of Syria’s economy, when the country’s uprising began in March 2011.
But in recent months, Makhlouf has been under pressure as others within the ruling elite, Russia, and Iran all seek shares of the country’s assets amid a nine-year conflict and a loss of 75% in GDP.
In 2019, the assets of the Al-Bustan Association “charity”, run by Makhlouf and suspected of the financing of a pro-Assad militia, were seized by the regime.
Last month a shipment of dairy products from one of Makhlouf’s businesses, allegedly hiding drugs, was confiscated in Egypt. Makhlouf said the incident was a set-up “defaming him”.
Two weeks ago, he was ordered to pay at least $180 million to the regime from one of his telecom companies. The money must be paid by May 5.
Stepping up his appeal to his cousin, Makhouf said on Sunday:
You let others treat us in this way? We? The ones who gave up all that’s dear and precious [for you]?… Mr. President, this is not okay. Please, you give your instructions to those people, who are violating the law and the constitution of which you are the sponsor?
The tycoon concluded, “Mr. President, I’m asking you to be fair, if you would not hear me out, I can only turn to God.”