French jail term confirmed for uncle of Syria’s al-Assad

French jail term confirmed for uncle of Syria’s al-Assad

Court confirms last year’s four-year prison sentence against 84-year-old Rifaat al-Assad, which he may not have to serve given his advanced age.

According to reports, a French court has upheld a guilty verdict against Syrian President Bashar al-uncle Assad’s for misappropriating public funds in Syria, laundering the profits, and amassing a large property portfolio in France with the proceeds.

According to the AFP news agency, a Paris appeals court confirmed Rifaat al-four-year Assad’s prison sentence on Thursday, however the 84-year-old former military commander is unlikely to serve time due to his age.

The ruling, however, clears the way for all of Rifaat al-Assad’s property in France, estimated to be worth about 90 million euros ($106m), to be seized, as ordered by the lower court in June last year.

Rifaat al-Assad has been under investigation in France since 2014.

Between 1984 until 2016, the younger brother of late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad – father of the current president – was tried for crimes including aggravated tax fraud and theft of Syrian funds.

Last June, a Paris court dismissed charges against Rifaat al-Assad for the years 1984 to 1996, but found him guilty of organised laundering money between 1996 and 2016 concerning funds embezzled from the Syrian public purse. He was also convicted of tax fraud.

Rifaat al-Assad, Syria’s former vice president, left the country in 1984 after mounting a failed coup against his brother Hafez, Syria’s president from 1971 to 2000.

Two townhouses in fashionable Parisian neighborhoods, a stud farm, about 40 apartments, and a chateau are among his assets, according to AFP.

Rifaat al-Assad and his family also built up a huge portfolio of properties in Spain, valued at around 695 million euros ($822m), which were all seized by the authorities in 2017, it reported.

Lawyers for Rifaat al-Assad, who was awarded France’s Legion of Honour in 1986 for “services rendered”, have insisted all his money had a lawful origin.

The French case against him began with a suit filed in 2013 by anti-corruption campaign group Sherpa.


 

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