Areas of northern Syria under the control of Turkish forces and allied rebel groups have, over the last few months, seen the opening of real estate and trade bureaus by individuals linked to rebel group commanders, who laid down arms and left their positions in the Damascus countryside, Hama and Homs to join up with the Turkish army in Afrin, Jarablus and al-Bab.
Influential figures in rebel groups use these institutions to launder the money they have illegitimately gained during the war. These figures have amassed huge sums from various foreign entities under the pretext of aid for civilians, which they have then kept for themselves.
The most important source of these funds has been commanders of the Turkey-allied factions looting and stealing from the residents of Afrin, as well as stealing public and private property in the areas under their control, as well as imposing tolls and taking part in smuggling and prohibited trade.
Rebel group commanders are trying to launder this money through fake companies in anticipation of any emergency that could upset the situation in northern Syria.
The companies that have become known for money laundering include the Abdel Momen company, established by Abou Omar and Abou Nouman Kibritu, as well as Abou Qassi al-Irani and his manager Abou Ali Hadeed Kabriteh, who changed his name to “Mohamed al-Shami” and was a commander in Jaish al-Islam in eastern Ghouta, where the company was established to steal funds that were coming as aid to Ghouta residents.
The Jaish al-Islam leader known as Abou Essam al-Buwaydani opened a camel farm near the village of Basouta in the northwestern Aleppo countryside after taking it from its owners. Buwaydani took control of another farm near the village of Kafr Shil, near Afrin, and has about 300 heads of camel.
A Commander in the Muatassim Billah militia, known as Muatassim Abbas, opened a farm for deer in the Afrin area, in addition to dealing drugs and stimulant pills in areas under Jabhat al-Nusra’s influence and those controlled by the Turkish army.
The investments of these “war merchants” enjoy full protection from Turkish-allied factions in coordination with Turkish officers in exchange for a high portion of the profits.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.