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Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Assad Uncle’s Assets Kept Frozen by EU Court

(CN) - The General Court of the European Union upheld sanctions Wednesday against billionaire tycoon Mohammad Makhlouf, an uncle of brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Makhlouf, 82, rose from humble beginnings to become the financial advisor to former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, the current dictator's father. The Makhlouf family made its billions in the state-run telecommunications, retail, banking, utilities and oil-and-gas sectors.

The European Council blacklisted Makhlouf - along with dozens of others with ties to the al-Assad regime - in 2011. The mogul sued to remove the sanctions, which include denial of entry into the EU and a freeze of all assets held in European banks.

On Wednesday, judges for the EU's lower court dismissed Makhlouf's action completely, finding that European lawmakers had given a sufficient list of reasons for the blacklisting.

"In the view of the court, the council has succeeded in proving that Makhlouf is a member of the ruling economic class in Syria and it cannot be denied that he maintains links with the regime and has a decisive influence, as a principal adviser, over all the primary circle of rulers of the Syrian regime," the court said in a statement. "The council has also shown that Makhlouf was the main adviser at the time of the opening of the Syrian telecommunications market and that, in addition, he benefits from the policies followed by the regime. Thus, the evidence provided by the council enables the view reasonably to be taken that Makhlouf maintains links with the rulers of the regime or gives it economic support."

The Luxembourg-based court also dismissed Makhlouf's claim that the sanctions violated his right to privacy, by preventing him from maintaining his family's standard of living.

"Right to privacy is not intended to protect the individual against a loss of his purchasing power," the court said.

An English version of the court's opinion was not made available.

In early 2014, the court also upheld sanctions against al-Assad's sister, whose husband acted as the dictator's deputy defense minister. She had argued that her ties to the al-Assad regime died when her husband was killed in a 2012 bombing.

The court affirmed the blacklisting of Makhlouf's son Eyad - al-Assad's cousin - in 2013.

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