Most elite apartments in Moscow City were bought by relatives of the Syrian president

Relatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turned out to be one of the largest, if not the largest owners of residential real estate in Moscow City.
Origin source
The British FT reported that in recent years, members of the Assad family and their close associates bought 20 apartments in the City for $ 40 million. The Bell found out the details.

Apartments Assad FT told about the apartments in City in a joint investigation with the anti-corruption organization Global Witness. On the site of the latter, there is an investigation in Russian.

In total, the investigators counted from Assad’s relatives at least 20 apartments in Moscow City with a total area of ​​4740 square meters. m. Most of the apartments (18) are located in a complex of two skyscrapers "City of Capitals", built by the developer "Capital Group". At the beginning of 2019, 1243 square meters were added to them. m in the tower "Federation" - this is a half of the floor of a skyscraper; Assad’s relatives paid $ 9.5 million for this property alone, Global Witness writes. According to various estimates, they bought from two to four floors in different heights.

The first apartments were bought back in 2013 - two years after the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, when the position of government forces seemed hopeless. But most of all, Assad's relatives bought 11 apartments in September 2016 - exactly one year after the start of the Russian operation in Syria, three months before the liberation of the second largest city in the country, Aleppo. The last deal was completed in June 2019.

The Bell reviewed extracts from the USRN for apartments purchased in 2016. Their data coincide with those given by FT, but in addition to apartments for legal entities associated with the Syrians, 21 objects with an area of ​​11.1 to 16.6 square meters were recorded. m on the underground floors - this is a parking place, realtors explained to The Bell. Several of them are leased to the subsidiary Alcor & Co, the operator of the L’Etoile chain of stores. Renting cars in the private sector for business leasing is a typical phenomenon in Moscow City, where there is a shortage of parking lots, explains Yurgeneva Realty managing partner, former director of the elite real estate department at Knight Frank Elena Yurgeneva.

8 of these premises are in a 10-year mortgage taken by the Lebanese company Nylam Sal Offshore, follows from extracts received by The Bell. According to FT, this company gave Russian legal entities who bought apartments, loans. In the extracts, the company is indicated as “Nilam Offshore JSC”, its TIN is 9909401567. But there are no legal entities with such TIN in the Russian registry. An interlocutor of The Bell on the real estate market, who asked for anonymity, suggested that so the beneficiary’s lawyers could circumvent the sanctions restrictions - a mortgage with a Russian legal entity does not raise questions, while the Syrian company could attract attention.

Elena Yurgeneva calls Assad’s relatives “either one of the largest or the largest owners” of apartments in the City - according to FT. ” The managing partner of the real estate consulting company Colliers International, Nikolai Kazansky, notes that retail real estate investors in Moscow City often do not advertise themselves - "so we may just not know about the larger owners." But usually such large portfolios are bought out by investors at the construction stage for resale, the situation when such a portfolio was acquired in a completed building is unique, he says.

“Foreigners are often interested in real estate in the City, but rarely get to the deal,” says Yurgeneva. - Mortgage rates in Europe and the USA are much lower, therefore, in terms of financial indicators, the Russian offers look lousy for them. Another thing is when a family cannot acquire real estate in the USA and Europe. ” At least the 2016 deal was supposed to be profitable for buyers at a price - in 2016, apartments in Moscow City did not sell very well, says Nikolai Kazansky from Colliers.

Buyers All buyers of FT City’s apartments in City are members of the al-Mahlouf family from which Bashar al-Assad’s mother comes. This is the second most influential family in Syria. Asad’s cousin Hafiz Mahlouf, the head of the Main Security Directorate, a key Syrian intelligence agency, bought 13 of the 20 apartments for his companies. He is considered one of the initiators of the dispersal of demonstrations in 2011, after which a civil war broke out in Syria, and the management of arrests and torture.

Hafiz Makhluf and his wife have lived in Moscow since the summer of 2013 and even received a Russian driver’s license. In 2015, they bought another apartment near Moscow City and registered Porsche Cayenne and Mercedes GL350 at this address, according to Global Witness.

Two more apartments belong to the wife of Assad's other cousin - Rami Makhluf, the richest businessman in Syria, who is considered the "banker" of the Assad family. Three apartments are recorded by their relatives, including the twins Iyad and Ihab Mahlufa (intelligence officer and vice president of Syriatel, the largest mobile operator, respectively).

Most of the Makhlouf family does not advertise their Russian ties, and Hafiz Makhlouf's photographs are not publicly available. But, for example, the son of Rami Maklouf Ali did not hide what happens in Moscow. On the Internet there is his video with skyscrapers "Moscow City".

Hafiz, Rami, Iyad and Ihab Mahlouf have been under EU sanctions since 2011. To avoid sanctions, Assad’s relatives paid for their property with loans from Lebanese companies whose directors were close to them. At least one deal with Hafiz Makhluf’s companies went through Sberbank - it is possible that in this way the Russian bank violated the sanctions regime, Global Witness writes. The bank did not respond to the organization’s request.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the purchase of real estate in Moscow by wealthy foreigners “normal, widespread practice” and said he did not know whether people from Assad’s circle made such purchases: “There is an absolutely free market in Russia.”

When you come to a meeting in Moscow City, remember that over the 20 years of the history of the Moscow business center, he has covered a wide variety of residents and skeletons in a closet - in 2014, RBC wrote that the offices in Moscow City had been removed from Ukraine associates of Viktor Yanukovych. Who knows what other real estate buyers in the City do not want to advertise themselves.