The following is an English-language version of Levant Network research prepared for Akhbar Alaan.
Syria’s controversial Smart Card system to provide subsidized food is operated by a company owned by a cousin of Asma al-Assad, the wife of Syria’s president, according to information reviewed by Akhbar Alaan.
First introduced in 2014 under the auspices of Syria’s Oil Ministry, the “Smart Card” was initially used to distribute fuel for government agencies, before it was expanded to ration out subsidized gasoline and heating fuel to citizens.
In February 2020, Syrian authorities began using the Smart Card for distributing subsidized food amid the worsening economic crisis in the country, which has seen the prices of goods staples soar.
The system has been slammed for its lack of coverage, as residents without official documentation face barriers registering for Smart Cards. Syrians have also voiced complaints about the technical application of the system.
Akhbar Alaan cross-referenced death notices, corporate records, and a Syrian rental contract to determine that Muhieddine Muhanad Dabbagh, more commonly known as Muhanad Dabbagh, is the son of late Syrian Interior Minister Adnan Dabbagh.
Major General Adnan Dabbagh, a Syrian intelligence officer who served as Interior Minister from 1976 to 1980, was married to Asma al-Assad’s aunt, Saadat al-Otari.
Muhanad Dabbagh’s personal ties to the Syrian regime extend beyond his relation to Asma al-Assad. In his 2019 book “Assad or We Burn the Country,” Sam Dagher wrote that a young Bashar al-Assad “was friends with [Adnan] Dabbagh’s children.”
Takamol Trading Company is also owned by mechanical engineer Radwan Khodor, the CEO of the firm, and IT engineer Iyad Houshi, who has served as its chairman.
Dabbagh and Khodor have gone into business with each other before in Syria and Lebanon. In 2002, they founded the Beirut-based companies Noura Wings SARL and Petroline International SAL (Offshore), according to Lebanese corporate records reviewed by Akhbar Alaan.
Noura Wings was licensed as a travel agency in Lebanon and had an office in Aleppo. Petroline International’s business activities remain shrouded in mystery. In 2016, Syrian state news reported that a “Petroline Company” managed by Radwan Khodor was implementing the Smart Card system.