Key Arab leaders, including the former Sultan of Qatar, held Cr…


(MENAFN-IANS)

By Sanjeev Sharma

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) At least five senior Arab leaders, including heads of state or government, held accounts at Credit Suisse, according to leaked data.

The former Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said, had two accounts, including one opened in 1971 that was worth more than 177 million Swiss francs ($126 million) at its peak, OCCRP said in a report.

Iraqi businessman and politician Ayad Allawi held accounts from the 1980s that overlap with his time leading a Western-backed Iraqi exile party and as Iraqi prime minister after the United States. invasion.

In Syria, those clients included Mohammad Makhlouf, the brother of former President Hafez Al-Assad’s wife, who served as a front for his brother-in-law for years while leveraging his political connections in a business empire. covering tobacco, real estate, banking, and oil.

Egyptian tycoon Hussein Salem, a longtime ally of Hosni Mubarak and linked to the country’s intelligence agencies, was a client of Credit Suisse for more than three decades. He held at least a dozen accounts with balances often reaching tens of millions, although he was publicly linked to corruption scandals for years before and after the Arab Spring, according to the report.

During his years in government, former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam managed to amass tens of millions of dollars in corporate stocks, lavish mansions and assets held in foreign bank accounts – a fortune impressive for a long-serving public servant.

Khaddam held high-level government posts from 1970 to 2005, first as foreign minister and then vice president under Hafez Al-Assad. He rose to prominence in the 1980s while helping to manage Syria’s involvement in neighboring Lebanon’s civil war and subsequent occupation of the country.

Seeking to encourage pro-Damascus Lebanese politicians, Khaddam befriended wealthy businessman Rafic Hariri, backing his successful run as Prime Minister of Lebanon in 1992. Hariri was known to grease his relationship with money, and his friendship with Khaddam was no exception.

A former high-level Syrian official told OCCRP that Khaddam “dominated Lebanon through Hariri,” who in turn did him favors. He remembers meeting Khaddam in Damascus, where the vice president “led a legendary life.” Khaddam had a reputation for such an obvious level of corruption that he “doesn’t need documents” to prove it, the former official said.

Further accusations against Khaddam emerged after Hariri was assassinated during his second term as prime minister in 2005, a murder widely blamed on the regime in Damascus.

The following year, Khaddam defected from the Syrian government led by its current president, Bashar Al-Assad, and fled to Paris. In retaliation, Syrian officials began to release details of his previous relationship.

The former vice president was just one of many Arab elites who used Switzerland to store their wealth. For years, the country’s financial secrecy and relative stability have made it a popular destination for legal and illicit funds.

(Sanjeev Sharma can be contacted at )

–IANS

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