The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Thursday designated Rami Makhlouf, a powerful Syrian businessman and regime insider, for "improperly benefiting from public corruption of Syrian regime officials. Syria is well known for its corrupt business environment, which denies the Syrian people economic prosperity and other freedoms."
"Rami Makhlouf has used intimidation and his close ties to the Asad regime to obtain improper business advantages at the expense of ordinary Syrians," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.
"The Assad regime's cronyism and corruption has a corrosive effect, disadvantaging innocent Syrian businessmen and entrenching a regime that pursues oppressive and destabilizing policies, including beyond Syria's borders, in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories."
Makhlouf is a first cousin of President Bashar Assad. Among his interests, he controls the Syrian mobile phone network, SyriaTel. In the past, it was reported that no foreign companies can do business in Syria without his consent. However, a few years ago it was also reported that Makhlouf moved his business headquarters from Damascus to Dubai.