Bashar al-Assad’s uncle has been charged with embezzlement and money laundering, an anti-graft group said today. He was suspected of using ill-gotten gains to build a real estate empire in France.
Rifaat al-Assad, 78, known in Syria as the “butcher of Tadmur Prison” and who commanded the notorious internal security forces in the 1970s and early 1980s, was charged on June 9 with receiving embezzled funds and tax fraud, the Paris-based Sherpa group said in a statement.
Sherpa is an activist group that represents victims of financial crime. An inquiry into Rifaat al-Assad’s finances was triggered when Sherpa lodged complaints against him in 2013 and 2014. Sherpa said Rifaat’s fortune was stolen during his time at the heart of the Assad regime.
In the probe, headed by prominent political graft buster Renaud van Ruymbeke, investigators estimated that Rifaat and his family amassed 90 million euros ($100 million) worth of real estate in France, mainly through companies registered in Luxembourg, between 1984 and 1988.
The properties include a chateau and stud farm north of Paris, two mansions, two apartment blocks and a plot of land in the French capital as well as offices in southern Lyon.
Rifaat has been ordered to remain in France except for travel to Britain for medical treatment, according to Sherpa.
Rifaat headed Syria’s notorious internal security forces at the time of the 1982 Hama massacre and killed between 10,000 and 25,000 civilians, according to Amnesty International.
Sherpa today hailed “this advance in the judicial investigations involving one of the principal former dignitaries of the Syrian regime.”
The charges against Rifaat coincided with the 34th anniversary of the Tadmur Prison Massacre which was committed by the Assad regime on June 27, 1982. Units of the “Defense Brigades” militia, which was headed by Rifaat Al-Assad, stormed Tadmur Prison and executed at least 1,000 prisoners a day after a failed attempt to assassinate Hafez al-Assad in Damascus.
The execution of the detainees, many of whom were randomly arrested in various Syrian cities and towns, was a brutal form of primitive revenge that the Assad family still practices against the Syrian people.
In a statement released on the 34th anniversary of the Tamur Prison Massacre, the Syrian Coalition said: “The Tadmur Prison massacre was a true representation of the vicious brutal policies Hafez al-Assad pursued to build a state of terror and fear.”
The Coalition lamented the fact the international community has done very little to hold to account perpetrators of the decades-long atrocities in Syria. In addition, by failing to react to the unspeakable violations by the Assad regime in Syria, the international community has encouraged a culture of impunity.
Moreover, active actors in the Syrian file have been putting pressure on the Syrian people to agree to solutions designed mainly to protect perpetrators and ensure they maintain their hold on power at the expense of the blood of hundreds of thousands of Syrians.
“Reaching a viable political solution in Syria depends mainly on the principle of accountability. Perpetrators of crimes against humanity should be placed behind bars, not given a place at the negotiation table,” the Coalition said. (Source: Syrian Coalition + AFP)