THE uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is wanted in Spain on money laundering charges, has been jailed for four years by a French court.

Rifaat al-Assad, aged 82, will also have his property portfolio in Paris and London, worth €90 million, seized.

He was convicted of embezzling Syrian state funds to buy homes and offices.

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‘BUTCHER OF HAMA’: Rifaat Al-Assad

The former Syrian vice president violently put down an uprising in the country in 1982 in which up to 25,000 people died, earning him the nickname ‘The butcher of Hama.’

He was not in court for the ruling and plans to appeal.

Rifaat al-Assad is a well known figure in Spain where he controlled a property empire worth €695 million, including many luxury properties in Marbella and along the Costa del Sol.

This included a 33 million sqm plot in the wealthy enclave of Benahavis just inland from Marbella.

Spain’s High Court wants to try al-Assad for money laundering, with him being accused of siphoning off Syrian government funds to buy his massive portfolio.

His first purchase in Spain was in 1986 when he bought 244 parking spaces through a company registered in Gibraltar.

Two years ago he was involved in a highly controversial £17.5 million property deal in Gibraltar.

Judge José de la Mata wants al-Assad and 14 others including eight of his children and two of his wives to stand trial.

Al-Assad left Syria in 1984. He allegedly struck a deal with the president of the country, his brother Hafez al-Assad, to exit with around €270 million of government funds after he led a failed coup.

Since then the judge believes that the group headed by al-Assad has laundered more than €600 million of embezzled money through the purchase of 507 properties.

Al-Assad was the second most powerful man in Syria, right hand man and military commander to his brother who led Syria from 1971 until his death in 2000.

His Spanish properties were confiscated in 2017 as part of an investigation into money laundering, for which he is yet to stand trial.

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