US slaps sanctions on Syrian companies controlled by cousin of Assad

The United States is slapping sanctions on a Syrian mobile phone operator and a chain of duty free shops. The US Treasury Department says the businesses are controlled by Rami Makhluf, a cousin of President Bashar Assad. The move freezes any US assets that Syriatel and the Ramak duty free shops have and prohibits US citizens from doing business with them. The Bush administration expanded sanctions against Syria this year to target individuals profiting from Syrian government corruption. It later designated Makhluf as a target. Adam Szubin, a Treasury Department official, says that Makhluf has used government contacts "to enrich himself at the expense of the Syrian people."