World Bulletin / News Desk
A lawyer acting for the uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rejected on Friday accusations by French anti-corruption groups that the ex-military commander had illegally acquired millions of dollars of assets in France.
Sherpa and Transparency International France this month filed a complaint alleging corruption, money-laundering, embezzlement of public funds and misuse of corporate assets by Rifaat al-Assad, who turned against the Syrian government in the 1980s and now lives in exile in France and Spain.
"Were there even the slightest doubt over my client's real estate ... would President Francois Mitterr and have awarded him the Legion d'Honneur in 1986?" lawyer Marcel Ceccaldi told Reuters, referring toFrance's highest distinction.
Ceccaldi said his clients' real estate holdings dated back to 1984-1986 and were transparent and legal.
Earlier, the son of Rifaat al-Assad, Siwar al-Assad, told France Info radio his father had received funds since 1984 from "states, leaders and friends abroad." That included a gift from the king of Saudi Arabia of a 45 hectare (111 acre) property and stud farm north of Paris, he said.
Le Monde daily said his holdings also included a Paris mansion and some 40 apartments in the capital, valuing his total estate in France at 160 million euros ($215 million).
Before turning against the government, Rifaat al-Assad is widely held responsible for crushing an Islamist uprising in 1982 against then-president Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, in which many thousands were killed.
He has previously called on Bashar al-Assad to step down.
A French court will determine whether or not to launch an investigation in the weeks to come.
($1 = 0.7418 euros)Last Mod: 27 Eylül 2013, 15:24