Syria puts temporary travel ban on businessman Rami Makhlouf: ministry on Facebook

BEIRUT – A Syrian court has placed a temporary travel ban on prominent businessman Rami Makhlouf, a copy of the court order posted on the Ministry of Justice’s Facebook page showed on Thursday, amid a high-profile dispute over his mobile phone company Syriatel.

Makhlouf, the cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and one of the country’s richest men, had his assets ordered seized this week.

The government says Syriatel owes 134 billion pounds, around $77 million at the current exchange rate on the parallel market.

Makhlouf has addressed the dispute in three video messages in which he has appealed to Assad himself to help save his firm. In his last appearance Makhlouf said he had been told to quit as the head of Syriatel.

Once at the heart of Assad’s inner circle, Makhlouf has called the asset seizure illegal and an attempt by the government to take the company from him. The unprecedented public tussle has uncovered a rare rift in Syria’s ruling elite.

The court order said the travel ban comes after a request made by the ministry of telecommunications and would be dropped if Makhlouf paid the arrears, without specifying the amount.

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