Written by 16 h 12 min Corruption and embezzlement litigation, Strategic litigation

Ill-Gotten gains – Syria

The facts…

In 1970, Hafez Al-Assad led a coup d’état to seize power and remained in power until his death in 2000. He was succeeded by his son Bachar Al-Assad who continued the authoritarian regime, based on a system combining corruption and nepotism, which had been in place for many years. While in terms of the 2013 human development index Syria is 116th out of 189 countries, the existing system enabled several members of the regime including Hafez Al-Assad’s brother, Rifaat Al-Assad, to accumulate wealth. Exiled in France in 1984 after trying to overthrow his brother’s regime, he is now persona non grata in Syria.


The Litigation…

Former chief of the Republican Guard, involved notably in the massacre of Hama in 1982, Rifaat Al-Assad has an estimated fortune of at least 160 million euros that could not be the fruit of income earned in the context of his political and professional activities known at this time. His real estate assets are spread between Paris and Bessancourt (Val d’Oise).

In all probability, all or part of these assets are the product of corruption and related offences (misappropriation of funds, misuse of company assets) resulting from the system in which he lived before his exile in 1984.

Opening of a preliminary investigation

In July 2011 Sherpa and Transparency International France lodged a complaint against Rifaat Al-Assad and twenty other people with the prosecutor’s office for inter-regional jurisdiction specialising in the fight against organised financial crime. This first complaint led to proceedings being dropped a few months later.

New elements brought to the attention of Sherpa and Transparency International France resulted in a second complaint being lodged with the Public Prosecutor in Paris on 13 September 2013 against Rifaat Al-Assad and against X for concealment of stolen assets, corruption and aggravated money-laundering by organised gangs. A preliminary investigation was opened two weeks later by the Public Prosecutor’s office in Paris.

The restitution of crime-related assets to victim States is a fundamental principle of the United Nations Convention against corruption (article 51) ratified by France in 2005, so it falls to the French authorities to ensure its implementation.

 Procedures & Milestones…
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