ISTANBUL

Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf and the Bashar al-Assad regime have traded accusations over profits sharing of a cellular operator company.

On Tuesday, Makhlouf, a billionaire cousin of the head of the Syrian regime, said in a Facebook post that his movable and immovable properties were held under “precautionary seizure”.

But the regime’s Justice Ministry denied the businessman’s claims in a Facebook post on Wednesday, saying the document being circulated on social media was forged.

On Monday, the regime’s communications authority described Makhlouf’s claims about regime pressure on him as a “deception and evasive campaign aimed at evading the payment of public treasury rights”.

Makhlouf has released video clips in recent weeks complaining about being asked to pay additional billions of Syria lira in taxes as well as threats by security apparatus against his employees.

Makhlouf, who has been labeled as the “artery of the regime’s economy”, said his firms were the largest supporter of the regime’s security apparatuses during the country’s civil war.

Over the past years, many reports have emerged about a split between Makhlouf and the Syrian regime due to his “insufficient” financial support to the regime.

Makhlouf is considered one of the richest businessmen in Syria, using his kinship with al-Assad to make a fortune.

He has been described as one of the major “icons of corruption”, who were denounced by pro-democracy protests that erupted in Syria in March 2011.

The Syrian economy has seen a significant decline since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising and subsequent military operations, the most prominent manifestation of which was the collapse in the value of the Syrian lira, which has an exchange rate now of $1 to 1,300 Syrian liras.

*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat

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