How the Seychelles saved Syria

Against the backdrop of recent territorial gains, the cessation of hostilities and a peace process in Geneva that is rumbling along, President Bashar al-Assad seems more secure than ever after five years of conflict in Syria.
When people ask how he managed to stay in power despite the country having its economy collapse in half, hundreds of thousands killed, one in two Syrians being forced from their homes and the conflict dragging in four of the five UN P5 members of the Security Council, you wouldn't necessarily think about the Seychelles.
Yet as the Panama Papers, the biggest leak in global history, has shown, the idyllic archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean off East Africa has played its part in keeping Assad in the Presidential Palace in Damascus.

What this demonstrates is that what appears from a distance to be an insular, authoritarian regime far more proficient in the tools of medieval warfare than modern capitalism, has actually used the levers of globalisation well to protect its interests.

Evasion of sanctions 

What the 11.5 million leaked documents reveal is that three Syrian companies close to the government - Maxima Middle East Trading, Morgan Additives Manufacturing and Pangates International - used the already infamous Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca to create shadow or shell companies in the Seychelles to avoid the increasing pressure of global sanctions.
Considering how near the regime was to collapse before the Russian intervention, this evasion of sanctions is fairly significant. The Panama Papers suggest it paid for fuel that kept Syria's Air Force helicopters and airplanes in the air.
Modern tactics of moving money through tax havens, loopholes and front companies allowed for pre-modern tactics of dropping barrels filled with explosives on urban areas.

Another way of looking at it is that tax-dodging has cost lives.
The state and nature of Syria's economy was among the triggers of the conflict back in 2011. David Butter's major Chatham House report into the Syrian economy outlined how "economic grievances were an important factor underlying the uprising against the Assad regime".
Aron Lund, from Carnegie, explained that "for decades, the Syrian regime has been mired in corruption, benefiting from the exploitation of state regulations, bribery, and organised crime at every level of the system".
Bashar al-Assad's presidency saw an opening up of the Syrian economy with the introduction of private banking and a stock exchange among a huge raft of changes.
Yet as the renowned Syria scholar Raymond Hinnebusch wrote back, in 2012 the pressures of privatisation led the Syrian leadership to appropriate public sector assets for themselves, to enrich presidential families and ministers and private investors allied with them in "networks of privilege".

Nowhere is this network of privilege more apparent than in Assad's maternal cousins Rami and Hafez Makhlouf. Some estimates put their worth at $5bn before the war, with control of up to 60 percent of the Syrian economy.
They have been the target of international sanctions, including US sanctions, since 2008 and 2007 respectively, and the EU since 2011, suspected of controlling key gateways to Syria's oil and telecoms business.
Yet via a firm in Panama, the Makhloufs were able to continue to operate.
Frederik Obermaier, co-author of the Panama Papers story and an investigative reporter at the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, told Democracy Now: "they [Mossack Fonseca] realised that he [Makhlouf] was the cousin, and they realised that he was sanctioned, and they realised that he's allegedly one of the financiers of the Syrian regime. And they said, 'Oh, there is this bank who still does business with him, so we should still keep with him, as well'."

A focus on the traditional attributes of the economy of the state (ie, its industries, export and imports, etc) needs to be complemented by an understanding of the economy of the regime and the networks of privilege and corruption that comprise its core.

What has happened in Syria is that a corrupt economy became a corrupt war economy that was able to take advantage of a system blown open by the Panama Papers.
It's worth remembering that this is not the first leak to embarrass the regime. Another set of leaks, emails from 2011, showed Minister of Presidential Affairs Mansour Azzam sending Assad potential options for Russian private jets among rumours of an exit strategy being put together.
It would appear that Assad is no longer in urgent need of an exit strategy. However, he could use the private jet to visit the Seychelles or Panama to thank those who have helped him to remain in power.
The Panama Papers have shone a light on the economic activities of the regime that have stayed for too long in the shadows and, with the amount of information leaked, we know that there is lots more to come.


  1. Who is that Irishman in charge of Seychelles Financial Invetigations to say that Seychelles is not in the business of money laundering or tax evasion? He has been told what to say or how to lie. Here is the published list for the whole world to see:-
    The 10 most popular tax havens in the Panama Papers are:

  2. That was Bobby Brandly CEO of Seychelles Security Exchange TROPEX. Unless Bobby Brandly has forgotten but people of Seychelles still remember, not so long ago, when a Seychellois lawyer dealing in illegal offshore transactions was exposed by an investigative journalist. They are all parts of the same fraudulent scam to hide ill-gotten finance or to evade paying taxes. We await the publication of the names of those individuals.

  3. While many countries are already apprenhending culprits,in Seychelles SFA tels us,itcis investigating,,,not a single ,though their names etc in the panama papers indicates.Dito,to the fonseka branch in Seychelles,itcis still operating,ehen itcshould closed and sealed by police and culprits put under house,arrest in order that they could questions.At the moment,papers of proof are being destroyed,hidden as,SFA,chief of police thug Quarter just sit and look.

  4. No investigation in Soleil Overseas holding owed solely by Michel?What about the cheerleader of offshore banking fraud,Dr,Paul Chow?What,about Adam who we long know has companues in Panama created with Sepec stolen money.In 2012,ICJs reportd,named and shamed Glenny Savy Wife,Claudia Savy,who owed three companies registered in Panama and created by stolen IDC money.,

  5. Since the panama papers came out ,Michel has desasperared from his daily present of SBC and NAtion .........he thought he would be able othide his criminal activities for life and call them a perception .........he apparently in fear wondering what he could do to

    The fact is ...there is not only Panama Papers that pl thgus would have to face .but the 2,4 billions in swiss bank as well as the 50 million in Uk bank robbed by Faure and Michel .......
    Faure told us to buy food to feeed seychellis -----Well Faure ,well FGaure were Seychellois starving ?Who authoritzed you?Where is the purchase receipt donekys?WHich companies you prucahesed from ?Why in Uk when all our import gooods come from Aisa Faure?Why a new bank account just for the prupose of banking the 50 millions khalifa gifted Seychelles people?YOu never had other bank accounts in Uk that you nneeds to open a new one solely to banked the 50 millions khalfia gifted Seychelles?
    ",4 billions is siwwss bank ,,that even swiss authority had made public it belong to Seychellois ...who are they ,,how they made so much money ,,evben more than Bill gate?IF geuine ,,di these perosns paid ther taxes ?etc..etc. .many questions pldoneyks and criminals could not give a single stupid answer

  6. Cyclons is the region is common and tact....that cyclone can reach over 250 plus is normal .......that cyclones used to hit Mauritus and renioin more is common .....strangely no damage in Mauritus while Glenny and IDc plus Pl is givnign us the impression that cyclone s is new in the region ,,and that our outter islands were never hitted before and decalred it a DESASTER ZONE :::QWHY has Pl declared tFarquar DEASATER ZONE ..well by doing so it means Tax payer moneys would be gifted to ICD to for rapirs ...But reapirs what?We havenot seen a ssingle picture confirming the kind fo damage pl and glenny savy wwants to make us swallow and use it to rob tax payer money .....and since there are not much building there ...we asking both Pl and glenny savy to provide pohGlenny who when first became IDC ceo has become multi millionaires and have even millions to allow his wife to illegally create three off shores companies registered in Virgin Islands then IDc should logically after all theseears selling our outers island ins milliuons several times at astronomic amount which we have never seen ,,Then IDc should have capital to reapir the supposed damge that still neeed to be proven by Glenny and pl.....
    Is it not strange that Mauritus does not say anything about the supposedly EXTRA ORDINARY Cyclon Pl is selling out ...The Mauritius would have long cried out about an exceptional cy<clon because oflike Pl is seeling us ,,,"Climate change and whatever unproven shits )

    ...Any damge of IDc should be rapir by using IDc capital ..and since IDc exsit for decades and had s9old repeatedly our isalnds to rich foreigners ,,tand Glenny made himself multi millionaires in dollars then IDc must have milluions ot fit the damage......


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