Syrian war profiteer and smuggler expands business empire

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The following is an English-language version of Levant Network research prepared for Akhbar Alaan.

An influential Syrian businessman from Aleppo sanctioned by the EU for war profiteering and smuggling has further expanded his diverse business holdings.

On Tuesday, the Al-Iqtisadi business journal reported that Syria’s Internal Trade Ministry approved the formation of Golden Star Trading Company, which is 99 percent owned by Khodr Ali Taher.

The EU blacklisted Taher in February, saying he supports and benefits from the Syrian regime through “his involvement in smuggling and profiteering activities.”

According to the EU, Taher is a “leading business person operating across multiple sectors of the Syrian economy, including private security, mobile phone retail, hotel management, advertising services and domestic money transfer.”

Taher’s latest company is licensed to invest in gyms and import and export gym equipment as well as electronics, further diversifying his already wide business activities.

Taher is reportedly close to Maher al-Assad, the president of Syria’s president. A recent report by the Middle East Directions Programme detailed the businessman’s economic ties to the Syrian Army’s 4th Division, which is under the control of Maher al-Assad. 

Taher has become “one of the Fourth Division’s most important contractors for convoy protection since 2016,” the report, written by Ayman Aldassouky, said. 

Taher became one of Maher al-Assad’s cronies, according to the report, which said he was integrated into the Syrian’s president’s business activities.

“Khodr [Ali Taher] was entrusted with the task of investing the income generated by the [4th] Division and integrating it into the formal economy,” the report added. 

In February 2019, Fares al-Chehabi, an industrialist and member of parliament from Aleppo, accused Taher of being a smuggler during an interview on Al-Ikhbariya TV. The interview was taken down by the outlet shortly afterward, but a preserved version can be seen here.

That same month, Syria’s Interior Minister issued a decision barring his minister from working with Taher, but he rescinded the decision three weeks later. 

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