Two Syrians deny managing Assad’s wealth as stated by Wikileaks

From right to left: Rami Makhlouf, Zuhair Sahloul, Nabil al-Kuzbari, and Fawaz al-Akhras. (Al Arabiya)

Two Syrian businessmen denied to Al Arabiya Wednesday WikiLeaks reports that they were involved in managing the assets and money of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad inside and outside the country.

According to a U.S. embassy cable dated 2008 and recently published by WikiLeaks, Zuhair Sahloul and Nabil al-Kuzbari worked alongside Assad’s uncle Mohammed Makhlouf and Assad’s father-in-law Fawaz al-Akhras doing business for the Syrian dictator and his family.

Sahloul is the most powerful man in black-market currency exchange in Syria, according to the cable.

The government gave him an office in the Syrian Central Bank, from which he was asked to deal with the devaluation of the Syrian pound in 2005.

Within weeks, Sahloul had regained 20 percent of the currency’s value, and made huge profits for himself and the regime.

He is in charge of managing the president’s money due to his contacts, which allow Sahloul to transfer $10 million to anywhere in the world within 24 hours, according to the cable.

In a statement to Al Arabiya, Sahloul denied the report saying his role was “advisory,” providing daily reports about the state of market to the central bank.

Makhlouf, Assad’s uncle on his mother’s side, is described in the telegram as the “mastermind of corruption.”

Makhlouf gave his son Rami the first license for a mobile-phone provider in the country, Syriatel, the document stated.

The cable stated that Kuzbari is known as “the paper king.” His business is based in Vienna, and he has close ties with the Makhloufs.

Kuzbari played an important role in encouraging several European politicians to establish closer ties with Assad, and is using his business and banking connections abroad to transfer the president’s assets outside the country.

Kzbari, however, denied to Al Arabiya any ties to Assad’s family.

“I have not ties to the Syrian regime or any other regime; I have no ties neither with the [Syrian] opposition nor allies [of President Assad]. I am a person, a businessman and i care about the interest of my people and my country,” he said.

Akhras, Assad’s father-in-law, is extremely active in Syria’s business sector, using his family ties with the president to expand his influence, the document stated.

Tracking Akhras’s account activities, and the amounts of money he has transferred, confirms speculation about his role in making a large portion of the president’s money disappear.

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