İrem UZUN -TDO- The exiled uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was found guilty of acquiring millions of euros worth of French property using funds diverted from the Syrian state and sentenced to four years in prison. The French court ordered the seizure of all of Rifaat al-Assad’s property in France, which judicial sources estimate are worth 100 million euros, as well as a property worth 29 million euros in London.

Rifaat al-Assad, nicknamed the Butcher of Hama for in 1982 allegedly commanding troops behind the brutal crushing of an uprising in central Syria, has been under investigation in France since 2014. He has denied any responsibility for the massacre. Since 1984, when he led a failed coup against his brother and moved to Europe with his 4 views and 16 children, Rifaat has mostly lived in exile in France and Spain. After Hafez died in 2000, Rifaat proclaimed himself his brother's legitimate successor. But Bashar became president. When Syria descended into civil war in 2011, he called on his nephew Bashar to step down.

In 2014, the legal NGO called Sherpa filed a complaint saying the value of his property empire far exceeded his known income. Five years later, the French judicial authorities decided that he should stand trial for crimes allegedly committed between 1984 and 2016, including organized money laundering, aggravated tax fraud and misappropriation of Syrian state funds. Assad denied the charges, saying he was given gifts by the Saudi royal family. His reported French fortune includes two Paris townhouses, a stud farm, a chateau and 7,300 square meters of office space in Lyon, according to the BBC.

Assad and his family also have a portfolio of 507 properties in Spain valued at around €695m. The properties were seized by the Spanish authorities in 2017 as part of a separate investigation into alleged money-laundering activities by Assad and 13 other people, who have again denied any wrongdoing.

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