2 April 1971 |
|Political party||Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party|
|Years of service||1992-2014|
Hafez Makhlouf (Arabic: حافظ مخلوف; born 2 April 1971) is a Syrian former intelligence officer who was head of the internal branch of the General Security Directorate, Syria's civilian intelligence agency. He was a member of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's "inner circle" of close supporters.
Makhlouf was born in Damascus on 2 April 1971. He is the maternal cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the brother of Rami Makhlouf, Syria's leading businessman. He was commissioned in the Republican Guard in 1992 and was a close friend of Bassel al-Assad. Hafez Makhlouf is perhaps best known for being one of the two survivors of the high-speed car crash in 1994 that killed Bashar al-Assad's elder brother, Bassel al-Assad, who was being groomed to succeed their father, Hafez al-Assad.
Makhlouf was sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury in 2007 for "undermining the sovereignty of Lebanon or its democratic processes and institutions." The sanctions called for freezing "any assets the designees may have located in the United States", and prohibited U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with these individuals". In May 2011, the EU imposed sanctions against Makhlouf, saying he was an "associate of Maher Assad" who "bankrolls the regime allowing violence against demonstrators" and had been "involved in violence against demonstrators" as head of the GSD's Damascus branch. The US treasury department also announced new sanctions against him in May 2011, stating that Makhlouf had been "given a leading role in responding to protests in Syria, and was heavily involved in the Syrian government's actions in Deraa, where protesters were killed". Opposition activists argued that Makhlouf enjoys greater influence over the president than the head of the General Security Directorate, Ali Mamlouk.
Swiss authorities froze Hafez Makhlouf's account of about 3 million euros in a Geneva bank for suspected money laundering in 2011. In February 2012, Makhlouf won a legal bid to unfreeze SFr 3 million ($3.3 million) held in bank accounts in Switzerland after he appealed, saying it predated sanctions. However, his legal bid to enter Switzerland to meet with his lawyers was rejected by Switzerland's supreme court at the end of 2011.
Reports on death, and relocating to Belarus
On 18 July 2012, Al Arabiya reported that Makhlouf was killed in a bombing which targeted Syria's National Security headquarters in Damascus. Other sources however indicated that he was only wounded in the attack.
In September 2014 multiple sources reported that he had relocated to Belarus with his wife. Earlier in the month Makhlouf had been removed from his powerful intelligence post in Damascus but pro-government sources said at the time that it was a “routine” move. Joshua Landis, a U.S. expert on Syria tweeted that Makhlouf had left Syria and that he and his brother Ihab had removed Assad’s photo from their Facebook pages and WhatsApp profiles.
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