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Monday 26 June 2017

Spain seizes property linked to Assad's uncle

Rifaat Assad is an exiled uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad (AP/Michel Euler)
Rifaat Assad is an exiled uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad (AP/Michel Euler)

Spanish police investigating a money laundering case have raided properties and blocked dozens of bank accounts, including some belonging or linked to relatives of former Syrian vice president Rifaat Assad.

Mr Assad is the exiled uncle of Syria's current leader.

Civil Guard police said the searches were carried out in the southern coastal towns of Marbella and Puerto Banus with the aid of French police.

They followed a request by National Court judge Jose de la Mata who is probing money-laundering crimes carried out by a gang in the two towns, a court statement said.

Two of Mr Assad's wives and six of his sons are among the 15 people investigated.

The judge ordered the seizure of more than 500 properties owned by Mr Assad and his relatives, a court statement said.

Most of them are located in Puerto Banus, a luxury marina in Costa del Sol. The property stock, valued at 691 million euro (£591 million), includes a 12.7 sq mile estate valued at 60 million euro (£51 million).

The accounts of 76 "legal entities" - which include companies, trusts and funds - that were owned, administered or linked to Mr Assad and his relatives were also blocked, a court statement said.

The court said that no arrests were made.

Mr Assad is the exiled uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad. He was vice president of Syria when the country was ruled by the current leader's father.

He fled into exile after a failed 1984 coup attempt against his brother, then-president Hafez Assad, and lives mostly in France. He tried to take power again in Syria in 2000, when his brother died, but the ruling party closed ranks around Bashar Assad.

Spain opened the money laundering investigation last December following one started by France in 2013. Last June, France's financial prosecutor's office filed preliminary charges against Mr Assad for embezzlement and other counts.

Anti-corruption group Sherpa, which filed the original French suit, suspects Mr Assad of using ill-gotten gains from corruption in Syria to build a real estate fortune in France. French authorities found that much of his real estate was in southern Spain.

AP

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