Analysts have claimed Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad may have amassed up to 1.4 billion dollars for his family and close associates, despite moves to freeze his regime’s assets in London, Switzerland and the US.
According to the London business intelligence firm Alaco, many of Assad’s assets are held in Russia, Hong Kong and a range of offshore tax havens to spread the risk of seizure, while myriad companies and trusts are understood to have been deployed to disguise assets that ultimately belong to members of the regime.
Iain Willis, the head of research at Alaco, said the millions of pounds frozen in British bank accounts make up just a fraction of the regime’s estimated global wealth.
“In terms of realisable assets, it’s likely to be in the region of $US1 billion to $US1.5 billion. This would be in line with Egypt’s Mubarak and the Marcoses of the Philippines,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Iain Willis, the head of research at Alaco, as saying.
“These are held, not just by Assad himself, but by extended family members, by second cousins, uncles, business partners and their advisers. Those funds are likely to be held in places like Russia, maybe Dubai, Lebanon, Morocco, even Hong Kong, but the assets themselves are likely to be worldwide,” he added.
In Britain, over 100 million pounds of Syrian regime assets, mostly cash in bank accounts, have been frozen in the past 14 months, while Swiss authorities have frozen 50 million Swiss francs belonging to Assad and other top officials in recent months, the paper said.
Last year Swiss prosecutors froze about 3 million euros held in a Geneva bank by Hafez Makhlouf, a cousin of Assad, for suspected money laundering, it added.
The report said that Makhlouf”s brother, Rami, who is a key fixer for the Assad family, has amassed a fortune since Assad took power in 2000, and is also believed to be Syria’s richest man.
Willis said Assad’s resistance to sharing assets among the military and diplomatic officials may be why he has few friends during the crisis, as during peacetime the Assads and their close friends owned 60 per cent to 70 per cent of Syria’s assets, from land and factories to energy plants and licences to sell foreign goods.