Journalists learned about the Syria bypass sanctions through offshore companies

Syrian companies and officials were involved in “the Panama document”, published by the International consortium of investigative journalists ICIJ, 3 April. Offshore was used to accumulate personal funds and for care under the Western sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime since the beginning of the civil war in 2011.

Actively used offshore cousins of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Rami and Hafez Makhlouf. First to 2011, when the country began a civil war, was considered the richest man in Syria and one of the most influential businessmen. The second was the head of the Damascus branch of the General security Directorate (civil intelligence service of Syria).

Its wealth and influence of the brothers are obliged relationship with the President, says ICIJ. Rami for many years controlled the key sectors of the Syrian economy, including oil and gas and telecommunications, as well as Syrian imports of tobacco products and cars class “luxury”, free trade zone on the border with Lebanon and the duty free shops — no foreign company could not enter the Syrian market without his consent. Hafez, the Syrian General intelligence and security apparatus, was suspected of assisting his brother in the elimination of business competitors.

According to ICIJ, in different time periods in the 2000s Makhlouf controlled several offshore companies in different jurisdictions, including Polter Investments Inc, Lorie Ltd., Drex Technologies S. A, Dorling International Ltd. and Ramak Ltd. — the last named by analogy with the group of businessman Ramak Contracting & Trading in Syria. In addition, the Geneva office of HSBC had opened accounts of the company Cara Corporation, where Rami Makhlouf was listed Director, Seadale International Corporation, which he owned together with his brothers, Eagle Trading & Contracting Limited, belonging to the Hafez Makhlouf, and Hoxim Lane Management, which is owned by another brother [name not specified].

As writes the French Le Monde, with the beginning of the reign of Bashar al-Assad in 2000, occupied by the business environment of the new President tried to move away from racketeering habits peculiar to the near-state business times, father of Bashar, Hafez al-Assad, but to do this he failed. The first sanctions were imposed by Washington in 2008 for “manipulating the judicial system and the use of intelligence in order to intimidate business partners”.

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In 2010, according to revealed internal correspondence Mossack Fonseca staff even discussed the possibility of terminating business relations with Rami Makhlouf, but the management of the Panama company in the end decided not to.

With the beginning of the civil war in the spring of 2011 sanctions on Rami Makhlouf, has also left the European Union, accusing him of “sponsoring regime allowing violence against demonstrators”. Three months later, sanctions against Rami-owned telecommunications company SyriaTel introduced US, explaining that it contributed to the corruption of Syrian officials and get illegal profits and was responsible for human rights violations in Syria. Only after this guide Mossack Fonseca gave in and in September 2011 ceased cooperation with the Syrian businessman.

According to the documents, the Syrian regime was able to Finance its armed forces in circumvention of sanctions through secret offshore accounts. Three Syrian companies Pangates International, Maxima Middle East Trading and Morgan Additives Manufacturing using Mossack Fonseca were registered in the Seychelles. According to the newspaper Le Monde, whose journalists participated in the investigation, with the help of these companies the Assad regime “circumvent the international sanctions imposed since the beginning of the war.”

All three of the company since July 2014 are under U.S. sanctions, according to whom they were used by the Assad government for the importation of fuel, including aviation, which could be used by his troops. With one of them, Pangates, Mossack Fonseca continued to work at least nine months after the announcement of the sanctions, says ICIJ, citing obtained documents. Originally registered in Niue (associated with New Zealand an island country in the Pacific), further the company was re-registered in Western Samoa, and then in the Seychelles. Pangates belongs based in Damascus, the group of “Abd al Karim”, close ties with the Syrian government.