THE former leader of the opposition in Gibraltar has labelled the controversial Rifaat al-Assad sale as ‘unethical’.
Peter Cumming, who was head of the GSD for two years, told GBC that the sale should have been ‘continously reviewed’ especially given that the ‘assets of Mr Assad have been seized in other countries’.
It comes as the government has yet to comment on the sale, despite calls for an explanation from independent and opposition parties.
Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon insisted the government needed to explain the deal to show it has a ‘moral conscience’, rather than burying it under ‘layers of legal jargon’.
Meanwhile the GSD has asked if an investigation is to be launched over the sale and purchase of the building, which is linked to the family of Gibraltar’s Financial Services Minister.
In a series of key questions, its leader Keith Azopardi QC asked last night if the sale was being probed by legal bodies, given the ‘serious historic allegations’ against the so-called ‘Butcher of Hama’, the uncle of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
The case broke after it was revealed that Rifaat – who earnt his nickname after allegedly ordering the killing of up to 25,000 Syrians – was selling the building for £17.5 million to a company majority owned by trusts associated with the finance minister Albert Isola and his family.
The Isolas deny that the building was sold at an under value.
According to GBC, the Isolas’ company Fiduciary also part-managed the sale for Rifaat, who is being probed for money laundering, tax evasion and corruption in France, Spain and the UK.
The sale comes at a convenient time for Rifaat, who has seen hundreds of properties and bank accounts frozen around Europe.
“I believe this issue has to be explained in detail to the Gibraltarian people in a way that is understandable by all,” Nahon said in a statement.
She added it should ‘not be buried under layers of legal jargon and coded language’.
“It is the good reputation of Gibraltar PLC which is at stake here, and that has the potential to affect us all.”
Nahon added: “Gibraltar should be a beacon of good practice and we should be able to show the world that we have a high standard of ethics and a moral conscience, as well as being a robust financial centre.”
The Gibraltar government declined to comment to the Olive Press but told the the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told GBC the proposed sale of Europort buildings is an example of ‘how well Gibraltar complies with its international obligations and co-operates with international investigations’.
Picardo said the relevant matters have been raised before the Supreme Court, transparently by the relevant licensed professionals.
He defended the Minister for Financial Services, Albert Isola, as a ‘man of undoubted integrity and a great asset to Gibraltar.’