In a Facebook video post blasting the government for investigating his business empire, Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf revealed on Sunday he had set up a web of offshore front companies through Cham Holdings to help Assad circumvent Western sanctions, Hey Rami Makhlouf tell us something we don’t know.
Rami Makhlouf has made the OFAC list honor back in 2008, and Cham Holdings back in 2011 for activities related to assisting the murderous Assad regime. The fact Makhlouf spun a web to avoid sanctions is not news. However, when, how, what, where, and with whom might be of interest to the U.S. Treasury if Makhlouf is willing to release full details.
Prior to this Assad family feud, Makhlouf was the richest tycoon in Syria after Assad himself who reigned supreme in embezzlement.
Makhlouf said security forces were now targeting Cham Holding, the centerpiece of a vast business portfolio much of which has been seized by the cash-strapped government.
The former Assad loyalist who is also a cousin of the president said security forces were pursuing contracts signed by Cham Holding on suspicion he had embezzled funds abroad.
Makhlouf said in a Facebook post:
They fabricated our embezzlement of funds and transferring it to our accounts abroad … Stop these unjust claims and read well the contracts. These companies’ role and aim is to circumvent (Western) sanctions on Cham Holding.
Makhlouf brought in 70 investors nearly 15 years ago to set up Cham Holding. It is the largest Syrian company by capital and has a monopoly on key property developments.
MADE THE OFAC HONOR LIST
Washington enacted sweeping sanctions on Syria last month known as the Caesar Act. The Act targeted new lists of individuals and companies who support Assad’s government, among them entities owned by Makhlouf. In addition, the Caesar Act targeted Asma al-Akhras al-Assad and her cohorts.
Makhlouf’s estrangement with Assad first came to the open on April 30 when he denounced taxes imposed on Syriatel, the country’s main mobile company which the Makhlouf family controls.
He later blasted the “inhumane” arrests of his aides in an unprecedented attack on the government from within Assad’s inner circle. In doing this, he exposed a deep rift within the ruling elite. He added that he would not surrender his wealth under intimidation.
Businessmen and insiders familiar with the struggle say Assad is targeting Makhlouf’s wealth abroad as Syria’s economy collapses after a decade of Assad waging war on his own people. Assad seized most of his onshore assets. Then he abrogated his contracts to manage and operate duty free markets.
The billionaire and others close to him are under U.S. sanctions for what Washington calls public corruption.
The European Union has also slapped sanctions on Makhlouf since the Syrian conflict began in 2011. The EU accused him of bankrolling Assad.