Rifaat al-Assad, Bashar’s uncle, charged with corruption in France

Rifaat al-Assad, Bashar's uncle, charged with corruption in France
Rifaat al-Assad

Paris prosecutors earlier this month charged Rifaat al-Assad, Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad’s uncle, with corruption, an anti-graft NGO said on Tuesday.

Sherpa, a Paris-based NGO that defends victims of corruption, said Rifaat al-Assad, 78, was charged on June 9, placed on probation, and ordered to remain in France except for travel to Britain for medical treatment.

“After two years of national and international investigations Mr. Rifaat al-Assad was placed under investigation for money laundering and misuse of public funds by Mr. Renaud Van Ruymbeke, a Paris investigating judge, on June 9,” Sherpa said in a statement.

Rifaat al-Assad, who was Syria’s vice president in the 1980s, was forced into exile for trying to overthrow his older brother, the late Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad, the father of Bashar al-Assad.

Sherpa added that it had filed a complaint against Rifaat al-Assad in February 2014, accusing him of acquiring “billions of euros” through corruption, embezzlement of public funds, misuse of corporate assets and other crimes, noting that he had “no known professional activity”.

Sherpa hailed “this advance in the judicial investigations involving one of the principal former dignitaries of the Syrian regime”.

Rifaat crimes in Syria

Rifaat is the younger brother of the former President of Syria, Hafez al-Assad.

Rifaat joined the Syrian Arab Army in 1958 as a First Lieutenant, and was rapidly promoted after training in various Soviet military academies. In 1965, he became commander of a special security force loyal to the military wing of the Ba’ath and soon, supported Hafez al-Assad’s overthrow of Salah Jadid and seizure of power in 1970.

 He was allowed to form his own paramilitary group, the Defense Companies, in 1971, which soon transformed into a powerful and regular Military force trained and armed by the Soviet Union. He was a qualified paratrooper.

In February 1982, as commander of the Defense Companies, he allegedly commanded the forces that put down a Muslim Brotherhood revolt in the central city of Hama, by instructing his forces to shell the city with BM-21 Grad rockets, killing thousands of its inhabitants.

Assad was also implicated in the 1980 Tadmor Prison massacre and acquired the sobriquet, the “butcher of Tadmor.”