The UN has awarded contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to people closely associated with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as part of an aid programme, a Guardian investigation has found.
The UN has said that it works with people approved by Al-Assad, adding that it does all it can to ensure the funds are spent correctly. It has justified such payments by stating that the complexity of the political issue in Syria means that there are a limited number of parties to work with.
The investigation found that the UN bodies were handing over large sums to businessmen whose companies have had sanctions applied on them by the US and EU, in addition to government departments and charities including one that was founded by Asmaa Al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian president.
“Of paramount importance is reaching as many vulnerable civilians as possible,” a spokesman said.
Critics have said the aid is being channelled to government held areas.
In total, the international organisation has paid $13 million to the Syrian government directly to boost farming and agriculture and $4 million to the state-owned fuel supplier, which is on the EU sanctions list.