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French prosecutors investigate corruption claims against Assad uncle

Siwar al-Assad (R) with his lawyer Marcel Ceccaldi, 3 October, 2013
Siwar al-Assad (R) with his lawyer Marcel Ceccaldi, 3 October, 2013 AFP/Pierre Andrieu

Bashar al-Assad's family is denying claims that the Syrian president's uncle used illegally acquired funds to build a real estate empire in France. French prosecutors are investigating claims that the cash came from corruption.

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Officials have launched an investigation into the wealth of Rifaat al-Assad amid suspicion that the money was obtained through corruption and embezzlement of Syrian public funds.

Rifaat al-Assad's son, Siwar al-Assad, told a press conference on Thursday that the money for his father’s "legitimately acquired assets".

It did not come from Syria but from friends, who supported his father when he came to France in 1984 after breaking with the government of his brother, Hafez al-Assad, Siwar al-Assad claimed.

Rifaat al-Assad's holdings include a mansion and several apartments in Paris and elsewhere in France, according to French media, who say thye are worth 160 million euros.

Assad's lawyer Marcel Ceccaldi told RFI that the investigation is politically motivated.

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