WikiLeaks IDs four said to have helped Syrian regime

Aug. 9, 2011 at 2:01 PM
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BRUSSELS, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Newly leaked U.S. cables from WikiLeaks identify four men said to have helped finance the Syrian regime or hide money for it.

EUobserver reports the diplomatic notes, dating from 2006 to 2009 and published by WikiLeaks, focus on actions against Syrian President Bashar Assad because of his suspected role in the assassination of pro-Western politician Rafik Hariri in Lebanon in 2005.

None of the men has been targeted by the punitive measures against Syria by the European Union, which is preparing for additional action this week. The release of the names comes as the EU and United States prepare to apply diplomatic pressure at a United Nations Security Council meeting on Syria Wednesday.

In a communique Friday, the White House said leaders of France, Germany and the United States condemned "Assad's continued use of indiscriminate violence against the Syrian people."

The WikiLeaks dispatches identify Fawas Akhras, Morthada Dandashi, Nabil Kuzbari and Zuhair Sahloul.

Akhras, a London-based cardiologist, "is suspected of being another avenue used by Assad to stash funds abroad," a U.S. diplomat's 2008 cable states.

Sahloul, "the most important black-market money changer in Syria," helped stabilize the Syrian pound during a crash in 2005 and, according to an acquaintance, "could move $10 million anywhere in the world in 24 hours," the cable says.

Kuzbari, a Vienna-based businessman, is said to have helped hide funds for Rami Makhlouf, the regime's main financier, and move regime assets abroad.

And according to another cable, Makhlouf "deposited significant sums under Dandashi's name in the Damascus branch of the Lebanese Byblos Bank."

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