The Syrian regime is setting up shell companies to buy shares and manage other companies and ultimately avoid sanctions, leaked documents revealed by The Guardian have indicated.
According to their investigation, three companies founded within 24 hours have links to new shell companies owned by individuals in President Bashar Al-Assad’s inner circle, some of whom are under sanction.
In early 2020 the EU imposed a new round of sanctions on eight Syrian businessmen and two Syrian entities for financially supporting the Syrian regime, violent repression against citizens and blocking the political process led by the United Nations.
In 2011 the European Union introduced restrictive measures against individuals or entitles financing the Syrian regime or involved in repression.
By making the structure of businesses and who owns them opaque the Syrian regime has made it harder to distinguish who is financially supporting the regime and ultimately impose sanctions on them.
According to the report, Ali Najib Ibrahim is co-owner of Tele Space which part owns Wafa JSC, the third largest telecom operator in the country.
Yasar Hussein Ibrahim is another co-owner of Wafa JSC. Yasar Ibrahim is head of the economic and financial office of the presidency and is an adviser to the president.
Yasar Ibrahim is also one of the Syrian individuals who have had sanctions imposed on him by the US and UK.
Also listed owners of these new shell companies are Rana Ahmad Khalis and Rita Ahmad Khalil, the daughters of Ahmad Khalil Khalil who co-owns Tele Space with Ali Ibrahim.
Ahmad Khalil Khalis co-owns Sanad Protection and Security Services which protects Russian phosphate shipments from central Syria to Tartus port.
His partner at Sanad Protection, Nasser Deeb Deeb, is under sanctions, as is his fellow co-owner in another company, Khodr Ali Taher.
The Syrian revolution started 11 years ago as Arab Spring protests spread across the region protesting unemployment, corruption, and brutality by the regime.
All these years later almost 500,000 Syrian civilians have died, and more than half the population have been forced from their homes.