The Syria Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SyTRA) has warned that it will take ‘all legal measures’ to collect back taxes it claims are owed by mobile provider SyriaTel, after the company missed a deadline for arranging a mechanism for the payment, local news agency SANA reports. The watchdog notified SyriaTel and rival provider MTN Syria late last month that they owed the government SYP233.8 billion (USD1.09 billion) in back-taxes related to their licence fees. SyTRA confirmed that whilst MTN had complied with the order and had contacted the regulator to negotiate a mechanism for the payment of the owed amount and to ‘rebalance’ the licence, SyriaTel had yet to do so. Consequently, the authority warned that it would collect the funds from the telco and that the company ‘bears all legal and operational consequences as a result of its refusal to return the state’s dues.’
The majority owner of SyriaTel Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of President Bashar Al Assad and a former member of the president’s inner circle, also claimed that he had been threatened with the revocation of the company’s licence and the seizure of its assets if it failed to comply with SyTRA’s order. Al Jazeera quotes the official saying that he was threatened with arrest if he did not hand over the company’s profits.