Spanish police seize nearly $500m of property from Assad’s uncle

Published April 5th, 2017 - 12:00 GMT
Spanish police vehicles outside one of the properties seized from the uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Spanish police vehicles outside one of the properties seized from the uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Spain's top court seized property worth $740 million from the uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a money-laundering investigation announced Tuesday.

José de la Mata Amaya ordered the seizure of 503 properties, including vacation homes, country luxury apartments and a farm, controlled by Rifaat al-Assad or his family, mainly in the coastal city of Marbella and its luxury yacht marina, Puerto Banus.

The laundering investigation was carried out jointly by France and Spain, according to a release from the National Court.

Rifaat al-Assad, 79, was Syria's vice president in the 1980s under Hafez al-Assad, his brother and Bashar's father.

While Hafez al-Assad recovered from heart problems in 1984, Rifaat was exiled from Syria for attempting to seize power. He has mainly lived in Europe and made a second unsuccessful attempt take over in 2000 when Hafez died.

The laundering investigation, carried out jointly by France and Spain, alleges that Hafez al-Assad paid off his brother to prevent a coup.

"There are indications that he [Hafez] handed over more than $300 million from state coffers," the court said in a news release.

"The investigation carried out by the French judicial authorities led to the conclusion that this fortune, embezzled from the embezzlement of public funds, was used for personal gain and to the detriment of the Syrian state, accumulating property assets in France, Curaçao, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg."

In 2013, France seized $95 million in real estate belonging to his family.

In December, Spanish authorities found that Rifaat al-Assad had holdings in his name in Spain.

Sixteen individuals associated with him are being investigated, including two wives, six children and one Spanish citizen who administered Assad's assets in the country.

The properties include the 8,100-acre La Máquina estate, which occupies a third of the municipality of Benahavís, a mountainous village near Marbella, and is worth $64 million.

Allen Cone

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