Last Updated: Tue Aug 14, 2012 19:29 pm (KSA) 16:29 pm (GMT)

Syrian regime sought to use offshore companies to circumvent sanctions: report

The Alaed, of the Russian company Femco. The Syrian regime has sought to use offshore Russian companies to break the Western sanctions. (Photo courtesy of Vesseltracker.com)
The Alaed, of the Russian company Femco. The Syrian regime has sought to use offshore Russian companies to break the Western sanctions. (Photo courtesy of Vesseltracker.com)

Top Syrian regime officials have plotted to use offshore companies in Russia and Malaysia to circumvent Western sanctions, according to a series of Syrian government documents uncovered by the Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. paper said Tuesday that it had Syrian government documents and correspondence spanning from March until early July this year that provided insight into how a shrinking group of loyalists to the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad have attempted to keep its cash flowing in the face of stiff sanctions and heavy fighting with armed resistance groups.

“Offshore companies are being formed in Russia and Malaysia and bank accounts are being activated in Russia in euro and Russian-ruble [denominated accounts] and could be ready Thursday July 5, 2012,” the paper quoted.

“[T]hen we would be able to pay for the value of the imports and receive the money for crude exports easily, while all concerned parties will take all the necessary actions to ensure the confidentiality of the proceedings in order not to open the way to the European Union and the United States to track the work of these companies and include them on the list of sanctions.”

The documents, which the paper confirmed through multiple involved parties, follow a series of crucial meetings between four Syrian officials—the central-bank governor, the ministers of oil and finance, and the head of the state oil-marketing company responsible for selling Syrian oil. In these meetings and subsequent correspondence letters, Syrian officials propose using of offshore companies as a remedy against sanctions from Western banking institutions and trade, and Russia as a prime ally.

Syria has been facing pressure from the U.S. and European-imposed sanctions since August last year. Last summer, the Syrian government announced it had approximately $17 billion in foreign-currency reserves—a figure that some Western diplomats believe has since fallen by anywhere from one-third to one-half, the newspaper reported.

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