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'Where is the constitution?': Syria's Makhlouf bemoans woes in latest post

Assad's cousin complains his companies have only been left with female staff after six months of arrests
A man watches the Facebook video of Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf on his mobile in Syria's capital Damascus, 11 May (AFP)

Rami Makhlouf, the maternal cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on Thursday criticised the government and its security forces for the arrests of his senior staff, in a new post on his Facebook page.

Makhlouf, one of Syria's richest men, had his assets seized in May over alleged arrears owed to Syria's telecoms regulator, which it put at 134bn Syrian pounds ($77m) at the current exchange rate on the parallel market.

'Where’s the constitution to protect the innocent! Did they turn into terrorists to be treated in this way and be detained for weeks without legal basis...?'

- Rami Makhlouf

The tycoon, who Middle East Eye revealed has remained in one of his villas in Syria, released a series of videos in April and May on Facebook lamenting the breakdown of his relationship with Assad, the money demanded and the arrest of a number of his employees.

In a new post on Facebook, Makhlouf said that in the past six months the arrests of the senior male staff of his companies have not ceased, which left the offices with a female-only staff.

Makhlouf added that the government has also ramped up pressure against his female staff by arresting some of them, among other means of coercion, but he did not elaborate.

“After not achieving what they wanted, which is to force us to compromise, and after all the measures they took against us, from seizing all of our companies and all of our accounts and all of our properties, they have not had enough,” Makhlouf wrote.

He added that the Syrian government had shut down a number of his companies, and described these decisions as “arbitrary”.

He said that his employees are being accused of manipulating the exchange rate of the Syrian pound, which is has been in freefall after US sanctions, known as the Caesar Bill, came into effect last month.

“Where’s the constitution to protect the innocent! Did they turn into terrorists to be treated in this way and be detained for weeks without legal basis, while all of them have good reputations and high ethical, national and unique standards, and all of this for what?! To pressure us to compromise on our properties and money,” Makhlouf wrote.

He asked his followers on Facebook not to comment on his post.

“Note: please do not comment on this post because the security [apparatus] is following the people who comment and they could be pressured or arrested,” he wrote.

Once at the heart of Assad's inner circle, Makhlouf has called the asset seizure illegal and an attempt by the government to take the company from him.

Makhlouf - under US sanctions since 2008 - has been an influential figure in the Syrian power structure since Assad succeeded his father Hafez in 2000. His father Mohammed began building the family fortune in the '70s and '80s through tobacco and banking.

The EU has also slapped sanctions on Makhlouf since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, accusing him of bankrolling Assad.