Brothers Rami and Hafez Makhlouf made a fortune exploiting family ties to their maternal first-cousin, Syrian President Bashar Assad, although they may have fallen out of favor in the last two years. For years, any foreign company seeking to do business in Syria had to be cleared by Rami, who controlled key economic sectors such as oil and telecommunications. Hafez, a general in charge of Syria’s intelligence and security apparatus, has been suspected of helping his older brother intimidate business rivals. Both were targets of international sanctions for their roles in Assad’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, although Hafez managed to unfreeze $4 million in Swiss accounts. Hafez lost his security post in 2014 amid rumors of feuding within the regime and is now believed to have fled to Belarus.
In the data
In 1998 Rami Makhlouf used Polter Investments Inc. to invest in Syrian telecommunications with Jordanian investors. In 2002, Makhlouf co-founded Syriatel, a Syrian mobile telecom company. He held 10 percent of the shares personally and another 63 percent through his British Virgin Island company Drex Technologies S.A. The same year, Makhlouf's co-investors in Syriatel sued him in Vienna where his Drex Technologies bank account held $2.6 million. He had also opened an account for Drex at HSBC in Geneva, Switzerland. Makhlouf also held accounts at HSBC for Lorie Limited, Dorling International Limited, and Ramak Ltd., named after Makhlouf's company in Syria, Ramak Contracting & Trading. HSBC handled Cara Corporation, where he was a director; Seadale International Corporation, which he owned with his brothers, Eagle Trading & Contracting Limited owned by Hafez and Hoxim Lane Management Corp. for another brother. Beginning in February 2011, employees at Mossack Fonseca discussed via email allegations of bribery and corruption made against members of the Makhlouf family and sanctions that had previously been imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department. In June the same year, the BVI Financial Services Commission wrote to Mossack Fonseca regarding an investigation under anti-money laundering laws into Drex Technologies S.A., prompting Mossack Fonseca to cut ties with the Makhlouf family's companies.
Hafez and Rami Makhlouf did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
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