Syrian telecommunications directors resign as bill to settle ‘debt’ comes due

DARAMSUQ (DAMASCUS) – Syrian telecommunications company MTN, the second largest mobile operator in the country and owned by billionaire cousin of the president Rami Makhlouf, has announced the resignation of three members of its Board of Directors, including the Chairman of the Board, without elaborating on the reasons for their departure.

MTN informed the Securities and Markets Authority of Syria that the Chairman of the Board Directors, Mohammed Bashir al-Munjed, as well as board members Naseer Sabah and George Fakiani, submitted their resignations the day of the deadline set by the Syrian Ministry of Communications for MTN and Syriatel – the country’s largest telecom – to pay 234 billion Syrian Pounds to cover debts the Ministry claims the companies owe the state.

MTN did not mention the reasons for the resignations, only stating that the resignations are due to “individual circumstances”. However, activists attribute the resignations to the pressures imposed on the members of the board – and the differences of opinion between them – in the wake of the campaign of arrests carried out by the Syrian Security Services targeting prominent employees of the two companies after Rami Makhlouf publicly rejected the state’s demands for payment.

Makhlouf took to social media recently to decry the seizure of the companies’ (and his own) assets and pleaded with the government to reconsider.

The Syrian Pound had slid to its lowest ever exchange rate with the U.S. Dollar last week, hitting 1,300 Syrian Pounds to $ 1 U.S. Dollar.