The assets of Rifaat al-Assad, the uncle of Syrian regime leader Bashar Al-Assad, have been frozen, according to The Times. The assets are estimated to be worth millions, according to the report. The news comes amidst rumors of Assad’s death.
The assets of Rifaat Al-Assad, known as Hama’s butcher for committing crimes against humanity in the city of Hama (central Syria) in 1982, were confiscated in Spain and France in 2013 after having been suspected to be earned from illegal sources.
The Times noted that the freeze came too late to stop the sale of a palace Rifaat al-Assad owned in Surrey.
The newspaper’s report explained that, in a private hearing in May, Lawyers obtained a court order against the 80-year-old Rifaat al-Assad, preventing him from selling another £4.7 million house, that he owns in the area of Mayfair.
The newspaper also pointed out that the court’s decision came too late and failed to stop the sale of another £3.7 million estate in Leatherhead a month before the court’s decision.
He also sold another property he owns in Mayfair at £16 million, while there were ongoing criminal investigations against him in France.
The British Crown Prosecution said it is “not legally permitted” to disclose details about this case.
The newspaper added that it learned that the court order was taken in a private hearing session at Southwark Crown Court, from which attendance the public or journalists were prevented.
The report concludes that the step of freezing al-Assad’s assets in the UK, in addition to 76 bank balances that belong to 16 people related with this issue, came after an investigation that started in France concerning the source of his wealth, which is believed to be more than 300 million sterling pounds.
The French judiciary opened criminal investigations in 2013 on allegations that he earned his fortune from money he has stolen when he worked in the heart of the Syrian regime. Last year, a judge convicted al-Assad of tax evasion and receiving fraudulent money.
In April, the Spanish authorities raided a number of properties in the vicinity of Marbella that are linked to al-Assad. Spanish authorities indicated that Rifaat al-Assad and his family own 503 properties ranging from vacation villas to luxury hotel apartments.
Rifaat al-Assad is the brother of the deceased Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, had previously served as vice president between 1984 and 1998.
His name was linked to committing massacres against civilians in the city of Hama in 1982, in which about 40,000 people were killed when he was commander of the so-called Defence Forces, but he has not yet been convicted of these accusations, in which he denies being involved.
Rifaat al-Assad had lived in exile in Europe, following a failed coup against his brother in the 1980s.