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How the Syrian Regime Uses of Lebanese Businessmen to Circumvent Sanctions

Documents obtained by Syria TV show that the regime seeks to make Lebanon its "backyard" to return to the SWIFT system.
How the Syrian Regime Uses of Lebanese Businessmen to Circumvent Sanctions

The United States and the European Union are working to curb the Captagon trade, which the Syrian regime and Iranian militias are known for, by imposing economic sanctions on companies and entities that act as financial fronts for the regime. These measures are part of efforts by the West to undermine the “Captagon of Assad.”

However, the Syrian regime appears to be trying to leverage Tehran’s experience in evading international sanctions, as Iran has been living under international economic sanctions for decades.

Licensing companies for Lebanese businessmen 

According to licenses for companies in the names of Lebanese businessmen, the regime seeks to make Lebanon its “backyard” to return to the SWIFT system, to manage the “dirty capital” resulting from the enormous profits it earns from Captagon, which the British Embassy in Beirut estimated at about fifty-seven billion dollars a year, a figure that has sparked controversy in a country suffering from devastation in all walks of life.

The Syria TV website obtained licenses to establish companies owned by Lebanese businessmen, including Ali Mohammed al-Nimeiri and Ibrahim Ali Manana, under the name Cedar Mountains S.A.R.L. Additionally, a joint stock company has been established, owned by BLOM BANK, Bank of Syria and Overseas, and Arope Insurance Company, along with the owner of al-Qadmous Transport Company, Mahran Khoundeh, Habib Betanjana, Mohammed Sobhi Joud, and Ihsan Baalbaki. The Scallop Steel Company, owned by the Lebanese businessman close to Hezbollah, Zain al-Abidine Adnan Shamas, is also involved.

“The regime is trying to establish Lebanese companies to be its economic arm through international banks that have branches in Beirut to access the global SWIFT system, enabling them to manage the money earned illegally,” banking expert Adel al-Muslimani told Syria TV.

“Assad seeks to repeat the Iranian experience, which tried in previous years to launch the local SWIFT system for communication between Iranian and Syrian banks to confront the ban imposed in this direction,” Muslimani said. SWIFT is the international network of secure financial messaging services.

The Iranian move came after Washington included several Syrian banks in its sanctions, including Cham Bank, the Syrian Land Bank, the Industrial Bank, the Agricultural Cooperative Bank, the Savings Bank, and the People’s Credit Bank. These sanctions deprived them of dealing via SWIFT, Muslimani said.

The Assad regime’s exclusion from the SWIFT system means it loses the ability to receive money from international institutions for its exports or to pay foreign parties for imports. This could further push Lebanon’s exhausted banks to open letters of credit in dollars and complete trade transfers.


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.

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