Friday, September 13, 2013

Troublesome: The Assad Family's Many Properties in Paris

Anne Michel brings us a Le Monde article on The Assad Family's Troublesome Properties in Paris.

emotions are running high at the Paris town hall. According to unofficial information … Rifaat Al-Assad, the uncle of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad, in exile in Great Britain, in France, and in Spain since the mid-1980s, is rumored to be considering the sale of a great part of his Paris properties during the coming months.

Two anticorruption associations, Transparence International France (TIF) and Sherpa, filed suit … against Rifaat Al-Assad and unspecified persons for embezzlement of public funds, bribery, and aggravated money laundering by organized gangs.

By the associations among his properties, according to the associations, are a French mansion and "several dozen apartments" in Paris's luxurious 16th arrondissement, along with an estate of 45 hectares near the French capital. "It is likely that all or part of the assets are the product of corruption or related offenses (embezzlement, misappropriation of assets, etc)", they explain in their lawsuit.

 … Certainly, in the current regulatory framework, Rifaat al-Assad, forced into exile in 1984 after attempting to seize power from his brother Hafez Al-Assad (the father of Bashar al-Assad, who ruled Syria from 1970 to 2000), and since then, an outspoken opponent of the Syrian régime, may freely dispose of his assets. Having distanced himself from the regime, and owner of an ostensibly anti-Bashar Al-Assad news channel in London (ANN), the uncle of the strong man of Damascus (76) is not the subject of any international sanctions.

He does not appear in the list drawn up by the UN and the European Union of the 179 members or supporters of the Syrian regime whose assets are considered "ill-gotten gains" (financed from funds stolen from the people, through misappropriation, theft, or illicit transfer of public money, etc) and must be frozen (before a possible seizure by court order followed by its return to the country looted).

But for many politicians, who agree with the anticorruption NGOs' analysis, the assets of the former head of the Defense Brigades of Damascus, which has long been one of the cornerstones of the regime, the question of money's origin remains.

Besides, in the eyes of international opinion, Rifaat al-Assad is a major player in the Hama massacre in February 1982, when the Muslim Brotherhood rebellion was crushed in blood (10.- to 40,000 people, according to estimates, including a great number of civilians). Rifaat al-Assad also kept his title of vice-president of Syria until 1998. As many reasons for these elected to stay on the alert, following, or even anticipating, financial transactions by the uncle of Syria's dictator on French soil. And to question France on where its responsibilities lie.