Rifaat al-Assad, Syrian President’s uncle, sentenced to four years in prison

Rifaat al-Assad, uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was sentenced by French justice to four years in prison for organized money laundering, embezzlement of public funds and worsening tax evasion.

Rifaat al-Assad, uncle of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, was sentenced in Paris on Wednesday, June 17, to four years in prison for fraudulent construction of a huge property heritage in France, estimated at € 90 million, which the court also ordered confiscation.

In this case of “bad profits”, Rifaat al-Assad, 82, absent from the trial for “medical reasons” but represented by his lawyers, was considered especially guilty of laundering by an organized group of embezzlement of Syrian public funds, between 1996 and 2016 .

Rifaat al-Assad, a British resident at the head of a real estate empire in Europe, who today presents himself as an opponent of his nephew Bashar al-Assad, is also convicted of laundering serious tax fraud and concealed work by domestic workers. However, he was acquitted of facts covering the period 1984-1996 for legal matters.

“Exceptionally serious” facts

Among the properties confiscated by Justice in France are two mansions in the beautiful Parisian districts, about forty apartments, a castle, studios in Val-d’Oise. A property was also seized in London.

Condemning a decision “which has no objective basis”, his lawyers said they “would immediately appeal.”

In the eyes of the court, which pointed to the facts “of exceptional seriousness” despite Rifaat al-Assad’s age, coordinated elements confirm the existence of embezzlement of public funds at the expense of the Syrian state and in favor of Rifaat al-Assad exclusively.

In a statement sent to the press, his lawyers confirmed that “there is no money from Syria in the archives” and that “all identified flows have a legal origin”.

A real estate empire

Former pillar of the Damascus regime, Rifaat al-Assad was the commander of the elite forces for internal security, the defense brigades, who had especially suppressed in blood an Islamist uprising in 1982. He retains a nickname, “the butcher of Hama.”

Forced in exile in 1984 after a failed coup against his brother Hafez al-Assad, he settled in Switzerland and then in France with his family and 200 faithful.

He who had no family wealth in Syria had then built a property empire today valued at € 800 million, mainly in Spain but also in France and the UK, which of late aroused suspicion.

With AFP and Reuters