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Spain to Try Assad’s Uncle on Money Laundering Charges

Spain to Try Assad’s Uncle on Money Laundering Charges

Sunday, 24 November, 2019 - 06:15
A Spanish Civil Guard officer stands guard outside the Gray D'Albion building at Puerto Banus in Marbella, southern Spain April 4, 2017. (Reuters)

Spain is heading towards a money laundering trial against an uncle of Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad, the High Court said on Friday, after an investigating judge finished his probe.


The prosecuting office has ten days to comment on the judge’s recommendation that the case goes ahead, which is considered a formality, after which a trial start date will be set, the court said.


Two years ago, the High Court confiscated over 600 million euros ($663.24 million) of assets thought to be linked to Rifaat Assad.


He is a former military commander, widely held responsible for crushing an Islamist uprising in 1982 against then-president Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father. Many thousands were killed.


Rifaat Assad turned against the regime in 1984 after a power struggle over who would succeed his older brother, Hafez. He now lives in exile between France and Britain.


He is also facing trial in France for allegedly acquiring millions of euros worth of French property assets.


After he arrived in Europe, his lavish lifestyle, four wives, and 16 children soon raised eyebrows.


His reported French fortune includes two Paris townhouses, one of over 3,000 square meters (30,000 square feet), as well as a stud farm and chateau near the French capital, and 7,300 square meters of office space in Lyon.


Most of this was acquired in the 1980s through offshore companies in Panama, Curacao, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.


He and his family also own over 500 properties in Spain. These were seized by authorities in 2017.


French authorities opened an investigation in April 2014 after two non-governmental anti-graft groups, Sherpa and Transparency International, raised red flags.


Two years later, they charged Rifaat Assad with tax fraud and embezzlement of public funds.


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