‘Panama Papers’ show Syria regime circumvented sanctions — report
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‘Panama Papers’ show Syria regime circumvented sanctions — report

Shadow companies let Assad get round international restrictions imposed on regime since start of bloody civil war in 2011

A Syrian man walks past a poster bearing a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the capital Damascus on February 23, 2016. (AFP/Louai Beshara)
A Syrian man walks past a poster bearing a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the capital Damascus on February 23, 2016. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

Syria’s regime has been able to circumvent international sanctions and fund its war effort through shadow companies, according to leaked “Panama Papers” seen by French daily Le Monde.

The newspaper reported on Monday that three Syrian companies, Pangates International, Maxima Middle East Trading, and Morgan Additives Manufacturing, used the services of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca to create shadow companies in the Seychelles.

Le Monde, a partner in the year-long worldwide media investigation into a trove of 11.5 million documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca, said the shadow companies were “a way for the Syrian regime to circumvent international sanctions imposed since the start of the war.”

The three firms are under US sanctions for allegedly providing petroleum supplies to President Bashar Assad’s regime likely to be used by his military, including aviation fuel.

Since the start of Syria’s war in 2011, tens of thousands of people have been killed and thousands of homes destroyed in air raids and barrel bomb strikes.

People inspect the rubble after a building collapsed following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed "barrel bombs" by Syrian government forces in the al-Mowasalat neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on April 27, 2014. (AFP Photo/Aleppo Media Centre/Zein al Rifai)
People inspect the rubble after a building collapsed following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed ‘barrel bombs’ by Syrian government forces in the al-Mowasalat neighborhood of Alepp, Syria, on April 27, 2014. (AFP/Aleppo Media Centre/Zein al Rifai)

Le Monde said the leaked documents show Mossack Fonseca continued to work with at least one of the companies, Pangates, until at least nine months after the sanctions were announced.

Pangates belongs to the Damascus-based Abdulkarim group, which is close to the Syrian government, Le Monde said.

The probe, coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, has exposed a tangle of financial dealings by global elites.

Assad’s billionaire cousin Rami Makhlouf, who is facing sanctions, was also shown by the leaks as long having registered companies in tax havens.

Syria’s most notorious and powerful tycoon, Makhlouf founded shadow companies such as Drex Technologies SA, which was registered in the British Virgin Islands in 2000 and which it took Mossack Fonseca a decade to grow concerned about, Le Monde reported.

View of a sign outside the building where Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm offices are placed in Panama City on April 3, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO ARANGUA)
The sign outside the building of the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama City, April 3, 2016. (AFP/Rodrigo Arangua)

In 2011, the law firm cut ties with Makhlouf, just after the outbreak of the revolt calling for Assad’s ouster.

Some 600 Israeli companies and 850 Israeli shareholders are listed in leaked documents.

According to Haaretz, the Israelis whose names appear in the leaked documents include top attorney Dov Weisglass, former bureau chief for the late prime minister Ariel Sharon; Jacob Engel, a businessman active in the African mining industry; and Idan Ofer, a member of one of Israel’s wealthiest families.

The appearance of their names does not necessarily imply wrongdoing, only that they are linked to offshore companies mentioned in the documents.

Times of Israel contributed to this report.

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