The man responsible for the death of 600,000 Syrians and who forced into exile close to 6m Syrians has acquired assets in Russia itself. Global Witness, a watchdog, published a lengthy report about how Assad owns Moscow apartments worth $40m. All bought by his front men in the Makhlouf family.
While the majority of Syrians starve on a daily basis, their butcher is buying up luxury apartments in Moscow. Most likely to use as a base to launder money for more crimes on his resume. This money funneling operation aims at bypassing the EU sanctions. The apartments also provide another layer of security for Assad in case he finds himself facing the guillotine one day.
The report begins by defining the culprits fronting for Assad:
Several Makhlouf family members, close cousins and accomplices of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, have purchased tens of millions of dollars’ worth of properties in Moscow’s prestigious skyscraper district.
Headed by al-Assad’s uncle, Mohammed Makhlouf, the Makhloufs are considered to be Syria’s richest and second most important family. Before 2011, they controlled 60 percent of the Syrian economy, ostensibly acquired through years of corruption and intimidation.
While most journalists give credit to the Makhlouf family for ownership of a business empire, the truth is quite different. The Makhloufs, all of them, are just front men for Baschar al-Assad. They are the trustees of the Assad family fortune, not their own. This is how Assad hides his net worth.
WHAT IS THE REAL PURPOSE?
The Global Witness watchdog writes:
Our investigation further shows that the loans secured against some of the properties could be for the purposes of laundering money from Syria into Moscow. This opens the possibility that the money could then be moved into other jurisdictions, such as the EU, where members of the family are sanctioned.
If you recall, in April of 2019, the British authorities seized funds from a cousin of Assad living in London. MSN published an article about the matter in which it wrote:
Britain’s top law enforcement body has launched an attempt to seize thousands of pounds of suspected illicit cash from the niece of Syria’s president Bashar al Assad after discovering that she has been living and studying in London.
Anisseh Chawkat, whose late father Assef was a feared security chief killed in a suicide bombing, has completed a degree in spatial design at the University of the Arts London and is still living in the capital despite members of her family being subject to international sanctions.
By using Russian banking channels, the Assads can bypass any EU sanctions. The loans secured, using the apartments as collateral, permit the Assads to launder their money to use in sanctioned jurisdictions.
What will the EU do about it? There has been no response from the block in the aftermath of the Global Witness revelation. A betting man would simply not risk his money on the EU taking any action. As far as many in the European bloc, Assad is yesterday’s news, and yesterday’s problem.
The last any serious European politician wants today is to shake his tree of terror.