Recurring Absentee Land Auctions in Hama, Preemptive Seizures of Assets from Investors – Syria Report

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In May, for the fourth consecutive year, the governorate of Hama organized a series of public auctions for land belonging to absentee pistachio farmers. The auction, which targets agricultural land owned by forcibly displaced people, appears to have become an annual event.

Similar to previous auctions, on May 8, the governorate of Hama announced that it would hold a new round of public auctions between May 15 and May 21. According to the announcement, the auctions were organized in accordance with the Public Procurement Law No. 51 of 2004 which concerns the properties of public entities. The auction was also based on Department of Agriculture Letter No. 438 issued April 23, 2022. The announcement states that prospective investors participating in the auction may not include more than one real estate area in a single application for investment.

On May 12, a central committee, responsible for allocating the land of displaced or absent farmers for investment purposes, met in the presence of the governor of Hama, the governor’s police chief and the head of the farmers from the Hama branch of the ruling Baath. To party. One of the committee’s most important decisions was to give priority to promising investors in pistachio farmland who are paternal relatives of the original owner, but only to the fourth degree. In the previous growing season, only relatives up to the third degree had priority, although both paternal and maternal relatives were accepted. First-degree relatives are the parents; second degree are siblings; third degree are aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews; and fourth degree are cousins.

Initial deposits

The governorate of Hama set May 21 as the deadline for investors to pay their initial deposits on pistachio farms proposed for the 2022 agricultural season. the Central Bank branch in Hama. Unlike previous pistachio agricultural auctions, which have been held every year since 2019, candidates for this year’s public auction can only invest in one agricultural season, and their investment periods cannot be renewed. The change could indicate that the Hama governorate hopes to increase the cost of investments next year.

Last winter, a group of “spatial technical” committees in Hama counted the properties of displaced pistachio farmers with a view to offering them for investment in public auctions. Based on this count, the governorate of Hama published on April 26 a list including the lands proposed for the 2022 agricultural season. The list was posted on the notice board of the General Secretariat of the governorate, as well as at the Directorate of Agriculture and in the associated awareness centers. The governorate gave residents until May 12 to submit any objections to the lists. People who object to their land being offered for investment must submit documents proving their ownership of the land, as well as their personal presence in the territory held by the regime. The resulting objections were submitted to the General Secretariat of the Governorate of Hama via a one-stop filing point.

Precautionary seizure of assets

On February 16, the Hama governorate issued a final warning to investors who had not paid their financial dues, urging them to go to the General Secretariat and pay by March 3.

In the first measure of its kind, the Ministry of Finance imposed a preventive “administrative seizure” of movable and immovable property belonging to AbdulKarim Al-Amouri and his wife, a couple in the rural town of Morek in Hama. They were targeted for asset seizure because Al-Amouri failed to pay the value of Investment Contract No. 278 for pistachio farmland in the Hama countryside. According to the Ministry of Finance, Al-Amouri is now obligated to pay more than SYP 13 million for the investment contract, as well as late fees and the value of stamps and interest. Hama governorate publicly released Al-Amouri’s decision on precautionary assets, a decision a local investor said The Syria Report was intended to serve as a warning to other investors.

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