World, Economy

Switzerland: Assets of Assad's cousin remain blocked

Swiss high court rejects appeal to unblock Rami Makhlouf's accounts, saying they could go to support Syrian regime

27.10.2017
Switzerland: Assets of Assad's cousin remain blocked

By Fatih Erel

GENEVA

The financial assets of billionaire Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad, will remain frozen in his Swiss accounts after a court rejected his appeal on Friday.

Switzerland’s highest court, the Swiss Federal Court, upheld a 2015 decision by an administrative court rejecting Makhlouf’s appeal to unblock his Swiss accounts.

"These assets are devolved to the financing of the Syrian regime," the Swiss court said in a statement.

Noting the "highest probability that Makhlouf is close to the Syrian government and that there is a risk of financial support to the Syrian government," the court added: "It is necessary to prevent sanctions imposed by Switzerland's trading partners being circumvented on Swiss territory."

According to the Swissinfo news agency, Assad has relied on businessmen close to him, most notably Makhlouf, to help keep Syria's economy afloat.

Makhlouf is subject to international sanctions but uses intermediaries to do business.

Swissinfo added that Makhlouf reportedly owned 40 percent of Syria's largest mobile provider, Syriatel.

Makhlouf made a show of distancing himself from Assad through giving to a group benefiting widows and orphans, but the Swiss authorities were not convinced, said the news agency.

Makhlouf has been on a Swiss Federal Council sanctions list for Syria since May 2011.

In 2013, the Swiss court refused an entry visa application from his brother Hafez Makhlouf, head of the Syrian secret service.

The court also confirmed the freezing of assets in Switzerland belonging to Makhlouf and his father, Mohamad Makhlouf. 

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