Paris prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into the vast property portfolio of an uncle of the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, after two anti-corruption groups filed a complaint alleging he illegally acquired millions of pounds’ worth of assets in France.
Rifaat al-Assad, a former military commander, has been accused by the French anti-corruption campaign groups Sherpa and Transparency International France of corruption, money-laundering, embezzlement of public funds and misuse of corporate assets.
The groups claim that Assad’s fortune is far beyond what he earned as a military commander or vice-president before he left Syria in 1984. They allege that his holdings, including a luxurious seven-storey townhouse on one of Paris’s most expensive streets and several dozen others apartments, must have been amassed by pilfering Syrian public funds and abusing power. Last month Le Monde estimated the value of his French property was more than £134million. His portfolio allegedly includes a chateau with 45 hectares of land just outside Paris, a series of apartments and a plot of land in the west of Paris, and a vast townhouse on the exclusive Avenue Foch with a view of the Arc de Triomphe said to be worth about 90 million euros.
UN experts enter Syria
UN experts charged with starting the process of verifying and eliminating chemical weapons arrived in Syria on Tuesday for the mission endorsed by the UN Security Council. The UN mission, which Washington and Moscow hammered out after an August 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus prompted US threats of air strikes against the Syrian government, is expected to continue until at least mid-2014.