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Syrian Leaders Hedge Their Bets, Transfer Fortunes

As repression grows more and more violent, Syrian leaders have reportedly been discreetly preparing to transfer portions of their fortunes abroad. But is it a sign President Assad is preparing to flee?

Assad (newtown grafitti)
Assad (newtown grafitti)

Worldcrunch NEWS BITES

How can we gauge the Syrian regime's confidence that it can hold on to power? One way is to follow the money.

While the harsh repression continues against the popular uprising, well-informed sources in Damascus say that Syrian political leaders and businessmen recently met with four Turkish financiers based in Germany and The Netherlands. President Bachar al-Assad and members of his inner circle – including his cousin and the country's most powerful businessman, Rami Makhlouf -- may be preparing the foreign transfer of $250 million in financial assets. At least two transfers, totaling $59 millions, are scheduled to be made to accounts in Malaysia, the sources say.

Syrian leaders are also said to be looking for ways to relocate their assets through a Turkish NGO said to have links to radical Islamic groups. Turning to Turkey would be surprising given recent comments by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who described the Syrian repression as "appalling." The Turkish leader recently asked his former ally to stop targeting civilians.

Over the years, Syrian military and political leaders are suspected of having accumulated billions of dollars through corruption. Indeed, if just $250 million has been transferred outside of the country in recent weeks, insiders say it is a sign that the regime is still quite confident of its survival.

Read the full version in French by Yves Bourdillon

photo -newtown grafitti

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Migrant Lives

A Train Journey With Bengal Migrants Looking For A Living Far Away

Finding a seat on the Karmabhoomi Express is close to impossible. A closer look at why so many migrant workers travel on it, and out of Bengal, offers a grim picture.

image of a train

The Karmabhoomi Express runs from Kamakhya to Mumbai in a 3 day journey.

India Rail Info
Joydeep Sarkar

WEST BENGAL — Welcome aboard the 22512 Kamakhya-LTT Karmabhoomi Express — a metaphor, if any, of the acuteness of Bengal’s unemployment problem.

It is 10.28 pm at north Bengal’s Alipurduar Junction and the crowd has swollen to its peak. This is when the Karmabhoomi Express appears at the station. It is bound for Mumbai. Finding a seat on it is close to impossible. It is always chock full and there are always hundreds struggling to get a spot in the unreserved general compartment.

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