French court upholds embezzlement verdict against Bashar Al Assad's uncle

Rifaat Al Assad returned to Syria last year after he was found guilty of acquiring French property worth millions of euros using funds diverted from the Middle East country

Rifaat Assad, an exiled uncle of Syrian president Bashar Assad, answers the Associated Press, Tuesday Nov. 15, 2011 in Paris.(AP Photo/Michel Euler)
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France's highest court on Wednesday confirmed a ruling that found Rifaat Al Assad, an uncle of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, guilty of acquiring millions of euros worth of French property using funds diverted from the Syrian state.

The verdict by the Cour de Cassation, which comes at the end of a long process marked by various appeals, confirmed a four-year prison sentence handed to Mr Al Assad, who returned to Syria last year after losing access to his French wealth.

“The assets held by Rifaat Al Assad in France seized during the proceedings will be definitively confiscated”, said Sherpa, a France-based group of human rights lawyers whose criminal complaint in 2013 triggered the proceedings.

Al Assad, 85, had lived in exile, mostly in France, since the mid-1980s, after being accused of trying to seize power from his brother, then-president Hafez Al Assad, Bashar’s father.

He returned to his country of birth in October after he lost access to his wealth in France — a French property empire worth an estimated €90 million ($101.3m).

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Al Assad previously commanded troops accused of killing thousands of people to crush an Islamist uprising in 1982.

French judicial authorities suspected him of having unduly acquired property in several countries between 1984 and 2016 with funds from Syria.

He repeatedly denied the allegations and said his wealth was a gift from the Saudi king.

Updated: September 08, 2022, 5:46 AM
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