PARIS: Syrian President Bashar Assad’s uncle Rifaat did not use illegally acquired funds to build a real estate empire in France, his son said Thursday.
Paris prosecutors Monday launched a preliminary investigation into the wealth of Rifaat Assad, 76, following a criminal complaint filed on Sept. 13 by anti-corruption groups Sherpa and Transparency International.
The complaint says the money was obtained through corruption and embezzlement, basically using cash siphoned out of Syria.
Rifaat’s son Siwar Assad told a news conference that the money for the “legitimately acquired assets” did not come from Syria.
He said when Rifaat came to France in 1984 after breaking with the government of his brother Hafez, he “received the financial backing of his friends who supported him then, who support him now and who will support him tomorrow.”
“It’s not Syrian public funds,” Siwar said.
French media have reported that Rifaat’s holdings include a mansion and several dozen apartments in Paris, with newspaper Le Monde estimating the total value of his estate in France at 160 million euros ($215 million).
Cedric Anthony, who oversees Rifaat Assad’s real estate, said the donors included “governments, kingdoms and individuals.”
Anthony confirmed that a mansion belonging to Rifaat on Avenue Foch was for sale at 90 million euros.