Syrian businessman and former Syriatel General Manager, Nader Qal’ai, passed away yesterday at the age of 56.
Qal’ai was known to be close to Rami Makhlouf, the cousin of the President of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad.
Members of Qal’ai’s family confirmed the news of his death. His sister-in-law said that he had died from the coronavirus.
People close to Qal’ai said that he died in Beirut’s Rafik Hariri University Hospital, after his lungs stopped working. No further details were shared.
Qal’ai was one of the most prominent businessmen close to the Assad regime, and ran large investment projects in the country. He was also a friend and partner of Rami Makhlouf, and, for years, held the position of General Manager of Syriatel, owned by Makhlouf.
Qal’ai was subject to European and US sanctions. The European Union imposed sanctions on him in January 2019, along with 10 other businessmen. The sanctions froze his assets, preventing him from entering the European Union, and prohibiting economic dealings with him.
Last June, the US Department of the Treasury also imposed sanctions on him, as part of the Caesar Act, which also affected other figures close to the regime.
Qal’ai’s Troubles with Canada
Qal’ai’s name attracted a lot of attention recently, when a Canadian court announced his acquittal of the charge of financially supporting the Assad regime and violating the Canadian economic sanctions imposed on the latter.
According to the Canadian newspaper The Chronicle Herald, Qal’ai was accused of violating Canadian economic sanctions against Syria but was acquitted due to insufficient evidence against him. Qal’ai has permanent residency in Canada and was the first person to be accused of violating the economic sanctions imposed on the Assad regime, which were enacted by the Canadian government.
Qal’ai hails from Damascus and is linked to the Assad regime and the influential figures associated with it, chief among whom is Rami Makhlouf, who appointed Qal’ai as general manager of Syriatel.
Qal’ai remained a partner and general manager at Syriatel until 2006. After his exit, he became a partner in Byblos Bank Syria, where the Makhlouf family owns most shares. Qal’ai is one of the founders of the Cham Holding Company, established in 2007.
His name came up in the 2017 Paradise Papers that revealed tax evasion committed by high-ranking figures around the world.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.