9 Apr, 2023 @ 09:00
2 mins read

Uncle of Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad, nicknamed the ‘Butcher of Hama’, evades trial in Spain on medical grounds

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'BUTCHER OF HAMA': Rifaat Al-Assad is facing a record fine in Spain for alleged money laundering scheme spanning decades

SPAIN’S national court will try in May to resume the trial of the billionaire uncle of Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad, accused of money laundering in Spain via Gibraltar-based companies.

Syrian Rifaat al-Assad, who owned property on the Rock and used a Gibraltar-based company to run his affairs in Europe, is accused of laundering €700 million in property in Spain.

But it is deemed unlikely that he will turn up for his trial at Spain’s national court in May.

The uncle of the current Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is currently in an Intensive Care Unit of a hospital in Damascus, claim his lawyers.

Al-Assad – who gassed his opponents, including children – had previously been the owner of Gibraltar office block, 6-9 Europort, until he controversially sold his stake cheaply in 2018.

As the Olive Press exclusively revealed, the 86-year-old had cashed in his shares in the complex for around £13 million under market value.

The sale to the Isola family was criticised by Together Gibraltar leader Marlene Hassan Nahon, who said the £17.5 million sale should never have happened.

By then, most other European countries had embargoed his dozens of properties and bank accounts at the time.

However, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo later insisted ‘the rule of law’ had prevailed after a High Court rubber stamped the transfer of ownership.

He also assured Parliament that law enforcement had cooperated fully with a French investigation that sentenced him to four years in prison in 2020.

Authorities will now seize al-Assad’s assets in France, which add up to at least €90 million in value.

Butcher of Hama

Al-Assad – who earned his nickname when he killed 25,000 people in a ruthless crackdown in 1982 – is alleged to have also invested hundreds of millions in Spain, with over 100 properties in Marbella alone.

Most of them were bought via shell companies set up in Gibraltar by disgraced accountancy firm Marrache and Co.

Prosecutors expect a similar verdict in Spain, except his assets are eight times greater, valued at €700 million.

They estimate that he has over 500 properties in Spain, including businesses like the Hotel Park Plaza Suites in Benabola and the Plaza Beach Banus.

He is facing eight years in prison and a fine of €2.7 million.

Meanwhile the prosecution is also seeking six years each for eight relatives, including his children, and €2.2 million fines for each of them.

The former Syrian vice-president fled Syria in 1984 after a failed coup attempt he led against his own brother.

Upon his death, he proclaimed himself the legitimate successor, but it was his nephew Bashar al-Assad who went on to be president.

Since then he has lived mostly in France and in Spain, especially in Marbella.


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