Former Syrian Vice President Rifaat al-Assad, 81, is suspected of fraudulently building a real estate empire in France.
His indictment in June 2016 already subjected the former Syrian vice president to a judicial review that limits his international travel. But Rifaat al-Assad, uncle of the current dictator, will have a trial in France. The 81 year old man, who fled his country after a failed coup against his brother in 1984, is suspected of fraudulently building a real estate empire estimated at 90 million euros in France after this exile .
The uncle of Bashar al-Assad has always maintained before the investigators that his fortune came from the largesse of the Saudi kingdom. Justifications that did not convince them and even less the Parisian judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke, who decided to send him back to the bench of the defendants. He will be tried for “organized money laundering” aggravated tax evasion and embezzlement of public funds at the expense of the Syrian state, according to the order signed by the magistrate on April 15.
Two mansions, forty apartments, a stud farm and a castle seized
A former pillar of the Syrian regime, Rifaat al-Assad had been the leader of the elite internal security forces, the Defense Brigades, which had cracked down in 1982 on an Islamist insurgency in Hama. He was forced into exile in 1984 after the failed coup against his brother Hafez, father of Bachar. Upon his arrival in Europe in the early 1980s, Rifaat al-Assad had accumulated an impressive real estate heritage, until justice looks into his case and opens a judicial inquiry in April 2014, after a complaint from the NGO anti-corruption Sherpa.
In France, the judge suspects Rifaat al-Assad in particular of having “sheltered his real estate assets”, valued at 90 million euros, in companies “registered in tax havens”. Most of his property – including two mansions and about forty apartments, a stud farm and a castle – have been seized. Just like more than 500 properties, worth 691 million euros, in Spain after a large police operation in 2017.