Assad allies profit from Syria’s lucrative food trade

by JONATHAN SAUL, Reuters
November 14, 2013

As food begins to flow into Bashar al-Assad’s Syria after several months of disruption, some of the president’s close allies stand to make substantial profits from the secretive trade, according to trade and opposition sources with knowledge of the situation.

While civil war grinds on, Syria is facing its worst wheat harvest in three decades and Assad has been scrambling to bolster depleted food supplies.

Using front companies and shipping lines, a discreet commercial and logistical network is now emerging, which aims not only to procure food commodities but to generate big returns for members of Assad’s inner circle, trade sources familiar with the matter say.

The sources declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the trade in time of war.

Rami Makhlouf, Assad’s cousin and top financial ally, together with Ayman Jaber, another prominent figure subject to international sanctions, are among those involved in the trade through intermediaries, the trade sources said.

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