James Denselow writes: Against the backdrop of recent territorial gains, the cessation of hostilities and a peace process in Geneva that is rumbling along, President Bashar al-Assad seems more secure than ever after five years of conflict in Syria.
When people ask how he managed to stay in power despite the country having its economy collapse in half, hundreds of thousands killed, one in two Syrians being forced from their homes and the conflict dragging in four of the five UN P5 members of the Security Council, you wouldn’t necessarily think about the Seychelles.
Yet as the Panama Papers, the biggest leak in global history, has shown, the idyllic archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean off East Africa has played its part in keeping Assad in the Presidential Palace in Damascus.
What this demonstrates is that what appears from a distance to be an insular, authoritarian regime far more proficient in the tools of medieval warfare than modern capitalism, has actually used the levers of globalisation well to protect its interests.
What the 11.5 million leaked documents reveal is that three Syrian companies close to the government – Maxima Middle East Trading, Morgan Additives Manufacturing and Pangates International – used the already infamous Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca to create shadow or shell companies in the Seychelles to avoid the increasing pressure of global sanctions.
Considering how near the regime was to collapse before the Russian intervention, this evasion of sanctions is fairly significant. The Panama Papers suggest it paid for fuel that kept Syria’s Air Force helicopters and airplanes in the air. [Continue reading…]