How is Bashar Assad Involved in the Kidnapping of his Wife’s Cousin?

Published September 18th, 2019 - 09:21 GMT
(AFP/File Photo)
(AFP/File Photo)

News reports that Morhef Akhras, a cousin of the Syrian president’s wife, Asmaa Assad, was “kidnapped” in Beirut last week has got internet users questioning the credibility of the news.

According to the Lebanese local media, the first that reported the news, Akhras is a son of prominent businessman Tarif Akhras, who owns several food factories; including rice and sugar in Homs.

His son, Merhef, 40, has been living in Lebanon for the past three years before he disappeared last Thursday in suspicious circumstances on the road between Aley and Chtaura while traveling back to Damascus and his whereabouts are still unknown. His car was found parked in Aley.

The cousin of the Syrian First Lady Asma Assad, Akhras’ wife received a call from her husband’s phone in the area of east Bekaa. It was from someone who asked her to pay $2 million for his release.

The story has taken the Syrian and Lebanese public by storm. Many have questioned whether it was true or not, others have suspected a political motive behind the story.

However some sources suggested Tarif’s kidnapping was an act of revenge from Bashar Assad and his wife and it was planned by Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf, with whom he had been at odds with.

Earlier in August, Bashar Assad reportedly ordered a series of measures against companies owned by his cousin, Rami Makhlouf, in Syria. The measures involve Makhlouf’s shares in the state-owned Syrian Telecom Company (Syriatel), the country’s biggest mobile phone operator.

While details of the conflict are not clear, rumors suggest the conflict was prompted by Makhlouf’s refusal to provide large sums of money to Assad after Moscow twisted his hand.

Assad then formed a “committee tasked with fighting money laundering and the financing of terrorism to start an investigation of 29 of the most powerful businessmen in Syria, including that of Makhlouf,” according to a local website.

Translation: “As an act of revenge, Morhaf Akhras has been kidnapped on the Beirut-Damascus Road by a mafia hired by Rami Makhlouf. Morhaf is a cousin of Asma Al Assad and is considered her right-hand man financially.”

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