Paris, 21 June 2022 – Wednesday, the French highest court will confirm or overturn the condemnation of Syrian cacique to four years in prison for money laundering and embezzlement and the confiscation of his assets located in France. This date will be very important in the fight against ill-gotten gains and for the restitution of assets.
Following a complaint filed in 2013 by the NGO Sherpa and several years of investigations, the judicial inquiry was closed and the former leader of the Syrian militia “defense companies”, also known as the “butcher of Hama” (1) committed for trial and condemned on June 17, 2020 to 4 years in prison and the confiscation of his assets located in France, estimated at 90 million euros.
In September 2021, the Court of Appeal confirmed the first instance judgment of the Paris judicial court (2). Rifaat al-Assad then lodged an appeal before the Supreme Court on several points of law against that judgment.
After the decade long Obiang judicial saga, the French Supreme court has once again today the opportunity to clarify the scope of the landmark ruling against Theodorin Obiang (3), and reaffirm the central role played by judicial proceedings in the fight against transnational corruption.
The upcoming ruling of the French supreme court is all the more important that fourteen years after the first “ill-gotten gains” case, France now has the opportunity to be a global leader in ensuring the return of stolen assets to the deprived population pursuant to a bill adopted in 2021 (4), meaning the potential restitution of approximatively 100 million euros to the Syrian population.
Finally, Rifaat al-Assad still holds France’s highest honorary decoration. Sherpa asks once again the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, to withdraw Rifaat al-Assad’s Legion of Honour.
(1) In reference to his alleged role in the massacre of Syrian town of Hama in 1982, when he was said to be holding the position of head of the “Defense Companies”. He is currently subject to a procedure ongoing against him in Switzerland for war crimes, opened in response to a criminal complaint filed by TRIAL International in 2013.