SYRIA: Makhlouf banned from leaving the country. Former PM Riad Hijab says al-Assad source of all corruption

DARAMQUS (DAMASCUS), Syria – Syrian business tycoon Rami Makhlouf, owner of Syria’s largest telecom company Syriatel and maternal nephew to Syria’s president al-Assad, is banned from leaving the country over his dispute with the Syrian president. The Syrian Ministry of Justice issued the travel ban because of the pending lawsuit filed against him by the Syrian Ministry of Communications and Technology. The Justice Ministrys decision follows the decision by the Syrian Ministry of Finance on Tuesday to freeze funds of Rami Makhlouf, his wife and children.

Makhlouf and al-Assad are family and longtime friends. Through his nephew and his father’s connections Makhlouf was able to build a business empire with interests in e.g. telecom and finance. Makhlouf also dominated the Syrian Socialist National Party, several cover humanitarian and aid organizations which he used to create support among the Alawites. All are or are in danger of being taken away from him. His private armed militia is already dissolved into other army divisions.

Former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who became head of the Syrian opposition Higher Negotiation Committee after his defection, this week accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of corruption and that he used Rami Makhlouf as frontman to achieve his own interests. Hijab published his comments on his Twitter account and said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is the origin of corruption in Syria and that the fight over control of Syriatel reveals the disintegration of the inner circle around the Syrian President (to which Riad Hijab didn’t belong):

“Bashar is bidding on the application of the constitution and the law, and Rami is bidding on the poor. Both are liars. If they were sincere, they would return Syriatel to the Syrian people because it is public property and not their private company.”

“The manifestations of Makhlouf’s corruption increased after the adoption of policies to liberalize the economy and prop up support for the government in 2005. It led to the impoverishment of the Syrian people and the emergence of a clique around Bashar al-Assad. Economic liberalization was simply a front for his own interests in Sham Holding, Syriatel, MTN and other sectors in which Bashar Al-Assad holds the largest stake.”