The pro-government al-Watan newspaper reported on Friday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s uncle has returned home from exile after 36 years to avoid arrest in France.
Rifat al-Assad, 84, arrived in Damascus on Thursday, al-Watan said on his Facebook page, nearly a year after a Paris appeals court upheld the four-year prison sentence issued against him for misappropriating public funds in Syria last year. Months later, the building of a vast property portfolio with laundering robes and wrongfully earned profits in France.
The former Syrian vice president, Rifat al-Assad, left his home country in 1984 after a failed coup against his brother Hafez, who led Syria from 1971 to 2000.
Al-Watan said, “To prevent his imprisonment in France .. President Assad Rifat rises above what al-Assad has said and done and allows him to return to Syria.”
Al-Watan said Rifat is not expected to play any political role.
Termed “the butcher of Hama” for his alleged role in suppressing the insurgency in central Syria in 1982, Assad has been under investigation in France since 2014.
He was prosecuted for crimes he allegedly committed between 1984 and 2016, including aggravated tax fraud and misappropriation of Syrian money.
A Paris court last June dismissed charges against Assad for the period from 1984 to 1996, but found him guilty of organized laundering of money embezzled from Syrian public purses between 1996 and 2016. He was also convicted of tax fraud.
Last month, the Paris appeals court upheld the verdict against him.
He may not have to serve in prison given his advanced age, but the confiscation of his French real estate, estimated to be worth 90 million euros ($106 million), ordered at his initial trial, is now Will move forward
His French fortune includes two townhouses, a stud farm, about 40 apartments and a chateau in the chic Parisian neighborhood.
Assad and his family also built a large portfolio of properties in Spain, valued at around €695 million, that were confiscated by authorities in 2017.
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