US slaps sanctions on Syrian businessman for ‘supporting’ Assad

Washington: The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on a Syrian businessman named Samer Foz and over a dozen entities and individuals for allegedly supporting President Bashar al-Assad regime.

“These designations serve to cut off critical supplies and financiers for the regime’s luxury reconstruction and investment efforts. This action reinforces the United States’ commitment to imposing a financial toll on those supporting Assad’s authoritarian rule, including Syrian oligarch Samer Foz,” Treasury Department said in a statement.

“Samer Foz, his relatives, and his business empire have leveraged the atrocities of the Syrian conflict into a profit-generating enterprise. This Syrian oligarch is directly supporting the murderous Assad regime and building luxury developments on land stolen from those fleeing his brutality,” said Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker.

Foz has been allegedly profiting heavily from reconstruction efforts in Syria by building luxury developments on land seized from Syrian citizens and has been allegedly attempting to enlist foreign investors into Syrian reconstruction projects.

On January 21, the European Union sanctioned Foz, Aman Damascus, and 14 other individuals and entities for allegedly using their ties with the Syrian regime for their own financial benefit.

These individuals also allegedly helped to finance the regime including through joint ventures formed with regimebacked companies to develop land expropriated from persons displaced by the conflict in Syria, according to the Treasury Department.

“Those persons sanctioned by the EU have been supporting and benefiting from the Assad regime’s brutality, and their reconstruction investments prevent displaced persons from returning to their homes,” it said in the statement.

The Department also issued sanctions to two Lebanon-based entities — Synergy SAL (Offshore) and BS Company (Offshore) — for facilitating shipments of Iranian oil to Syria.

The move comes as the Assad regime, which is backed militarily by Russia, continued their aerial bombings in rebel-held towns and villages in northwest Syria.

Authorities told Al Jazeera that the aerial campaign launched by Russia at the end of April has killed over 1,500 people since then in Syria. The civil war has been raging since 2011 in the country.

The Russian-backed offensive has so far failed to make major inroads into rebel territory in northern Hama and southern Idlib provinces, where the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) is putting up fierce resistance in their last remaining bastion in Syria.

However, Moscow and the Syrian army have repeatedly denied allegations of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas or any campaign to paralyse the daily life in rebel-held areas.

Russia has blamed the ISIS for breaking a truce by hitting government-held areas and said Turkey has failed to live up to its obligations under a deal brokered last year that created a buffer zone in the area that obliges it to push out rebels.

According to the United Nations, nearly half of the estimated three million inhabitants in northwest Syria – including Idlib province and parts of neighbouring provinces – had already fled the fighting and moved to areas near the border with Turkey.