Back in 2014, I wrote the first exposé of Mossack Fonseca, the sleazy Panamanian law firm that helps dictators, bagman and oligarchs hide their cash offshore. The firm later became famous when documents leaked to the press — and I still wonder who leaked them and what their political agenda was — led to the so called Panama Papers scandal.
In that story, I revealed how Mossack Fonseca had helped set up a British Virgin Islands shell company called Drex Technologies SA that was linked to Rami Makhlouf, the richest and most powerful businessman in Syria. Makhlouf is widely believed to be the “bagman” —a person who collects and manages ill-gotten loot — for Syria President Bashar al Assad.
(I’m no fan of Assad, but given what took place in Iraq and Libya after the fall of Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gaddafi, I’m highly dubious about external efforts to replace him, especially given that his primary armed opponents, and the people who would take power if he is removed, are fanatics along the lines of Al Qaeda and ISIS.)
But the relationship between Mossack Fonseca and the Syrian political and business elite appears to be much deeper than previously reported. Take a look at the corporate information for Ramy Trading and Investment, Inc, which was incorporated in 1986.
On the board sits Ramon Fonseca — one of Mossack Fonseca’s partners; the other name partner is Jurgen Mossack, the son of a Nazi SS soldier who was a member of the “Totenkopf,” or Death’s Head unit — and several members of the just utterly delightful Syrian Kuzbari family. Hmmm, Ramy Trading and Investment — I wonder why they’d have called it that?
The father of the Kuzbari board members was briefly prime minister in 1961 following a coup. One name that is absent from this firm’s board members is Nabil Kuzbari, an associate of Rami Makhlouf who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department until 2013. (I’m told he’s related to the Kuzbari board members, but I’m not sure how.)
Incidentally, the Kuzbari family owns a firm called Novus Aviation Capital. Its chief financial officer is Chafic Kuzbari, who is tied to 10 shell companies set up by Mossack Fonseca.
I’ll have more stories about Panamanian shell firms coming soon. Stay tuned.