France to try Syrian President Assad’s uncle on graft charges

Rifaat Assad has built a €90 million property portfolio in France. (AP)
Updated 17 April 2019

France to try Syrian President Assad’s uncle on graft charges

  • Rifaat Assad to stand trial for organized money laundering in building €90 million property portfolio in France
  • Uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad charged with building up a big property empire using funds from Syrian state coffers

PARIS: The uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad is to stand trial in France on charges of building up a big property empire in the country using funds from Syrian state coffers, legal sources said on Wednesday.
An investigating magistrate ordered Rifaat Assad to stand trial for organized money laundering in building the 90 million euro ($102 million) property portfolio in France, according to the order for the trial seen by AFP.
Its date has yet to be set.
Rifaat Assad, dubbed the “Butcher of Hama” for allegedly commanding the troops that bloodily put down an uprising in central Syria in 1982, has been under investigation in France since 2014.
In a written decision dated March 8, seen by AFP on Thursday, the office of the financial crimes prosecutor called for Assad to stand trial for laundering the proceeds of aggravated tax fraud, embezzling Syrian state funds, and failing to register French security and cleaning staff.
Assad, who splits his time between France and Britain, denies the charges.
Formerly Syria’s vice president, Rifaat Assad left Syria in 1984 after mounting a failed coup against his brother Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father who led Syria from 1971 to 2000.
After he arrived in Europe, his lavish lifestyle, four wives, and 16 children soon raised eyebrows.
His reported French fortune includes two Paris townhouses, one measuring a vast 3,000 square meters (32,000 square feet), as well as a stud farm and a chateau near the French capital, and 7,300 square meters (79,000 square feet) of office space in Lyon.
Most of that was bought in the 1980s through offshore companies in Panama, Curacao, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.
He and his family also own over 500 properties in Spain. These were seized by authorities in 2017.


UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

Updated 15 September 2019

UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

  • Johnson said he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what
  • “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the Mail

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared himself to The Incredible Hulk in a newspaper interview emphasizing his determination to take Britain out of the European Union next month.
Johnson faces considerable legal and political hurdles but told the Mail on Sunday he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the widely read tabloid, invoking the comic book and film character known for formidable but destructive strength.
Johnson remains defiant even though Parliament has passed a law requiring him to seek an extension to the deadline if no deal is reached by mid-October. He has also lost his working majority in Parliament and been told by Scotland’s highest court that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal.
Johnson portrays himself as more convinced than ever that Britain will break with the EU at the end of October.
He will have a lunchtime meeting in Luxembourg on Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to try to modify the Irish backstop that has been a main sticking point, but EU leaders did not seem impressed by Johnson’s invocation of the Hulk.
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the comments showed a lack of maturity.
“Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile,” he tweeted. “Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed?“
Juncker, who has downplayed hopes of a breakthrough at Monday’s meeting, also expressed alarm that many people in Britain seem to feel a British departure without a deal with the EU would be a positive thing.
“It would be terrible chaos,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “And we would need years to put things back in order. Anyone who loves his country, and I assume that there are still patriots in Britain, would not want to wish his country such a fate.”
The Oct. 31 deadline looms large because Johnson has not said he will seek another extension if no deal is reached, despite legislation passed by Parliament shortly before it was suspended.
Britain’s Supreme Court this week will rule on whether Johnson overstepped the law when he shut the legislature for a crucial five-week period.
The Liberal Democrats, who have been enjoying a revival, voted overwhelmingly at their party conference Sunday to end the Brexit process entirely if they come to power.
Party leader Jo Swinson said Article 50, which triggered Brexit, would be revoked if she becomes prime minister.
The party gained an important member Saturday with the defection of Sam Gyimah, a former Conservative minister. He is the sixth legislator to switch allegiance and join the Liberal Democrats this year.
Johnson also continues to take flak from former Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the 2016 referendum on Brexit.
Cameron said in an interview published Sunday that Johnson didn’t really believe in Brexit when he broke ranks and led the campaign to take Britain out of the EU. Cameron had been expecting Johnson’s help during the hard-fought campaign.
Cameron says of Johnson: “The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.”
Cameron is giving interviews to gain publicity for his upcoming memoirs.