Assad's Uncle Suspected of Tax Fraud in France

Suspected of having acquired his wealth in France illegally, Rifaat al-Assad, a political opponent of his nephew, was placed under investigation on June 9, a source says.

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus, Syria, June 7, 2016.
SANA / AP

 A French judge has placed an uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad under formal investigation on suspicion of tax fraud and money-laundering, a source close to the case said on Tuesday.

Suspected of having acquired his wealth in France illegally, Rifaat al-Assad, a political opponent of his nephew, was placed under investigation on June 9 after an interrogation with a French financial judge, the source said.

Rifaat al-Assad has lived in exile since the 1980s after he sought to oust his older brother, the late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, who was Bashar's father. The judge banned him from leaving France apart from trips to London for health reasons.Anti-corruption associations filed complaints against Rifaat in 2013.

The following year, French authorities began looking into whether there was evidence of corruption, bribery and money-laundering.Rifaat's lawyer declined to comment.

At time the complaint was filed, people close to him said his wealth, which includes numerous apartments and buildings in Paris, did not come from Syria.Anti-corruption campaign group Sherpa said that the case was part of a broader crackdown by French authorities on people who used ties to foreign governments to enrich themselves illegally in France.