Brian Kelly

EU sanctions Assad relatives and others over suspected drug trade

Flickr/watchsmart/CC BY 2.0
Propaganda poster in Damascus featuring Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s extended family are among those sanctioned on April 24, by the European Union for alleged links to what it described as “large-scale drug trafficking operations” by the Damascus government. A Russian company is also included on the list, which the EU issued on Monday.

There was no response from authorities in Damascus when queried about the allegations and sanctions that listed Syrian officials and military personnel.

The EU cited relatives of President Bashar al-Assad — Wasim al-Assad and Samer al-Assad – along with two Lebanese nationals and some dozen other suspects believed to have been involved in the distribution of the amphetamine captagon. The president himself had previously been the subject of sanctions.

The EU asserted that the Syrian government was a “central player” in the production and distribution of the drug, accusing Damascus of “enriching itself” and destabilising the region.

Just last month, Washington imposed sanctions on both Samer and Wasim al-Assad, as well as Lebanese nationals Noah Zaitar and Hassan Daqqou, over allegations about their involvement with the illegal amphetamine trade. Denying any involvement in drug making and smuggling, the Assad government maintains it has sought was to halt the trade.

The EU also named Mudar al-Assad, described as a cousin of President al-Assad, but gave no reason as to why.

Because of rights violations, Brussels placed sanctions on individuals, private security companies and Syria’s infamous Fourth Division, which is headed by the president’s brother Maher al-Assad. The EU accused government-backed militias of “attempting to evade the sanctions by changing their name and seeking to attract international contracts by posing as private security firms.”

Imposing sanctions on Stroytransgaz, a Russian engineering and construction company operating in Syria, the EU claimed it had been backed and benefited from its association with the government there.

In 2014, Stroytransgaz was sanctioned by the US for its purported connections with the Russian government.

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