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France investigating claims that Assad's uncle illegally acquired $217M in properties

Prosecutors in Paris are investigating whether Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s uncle illegally acquired around $217 million worth of properties in France, including a chateau outside the French capital and a luxurious seven-story townhouse.

Rifaat Assad fled Syria in 1984 after staging a failed coup against his brother, Hafez Assad, who was then ruling the country, according to The Guardian. The 76-year-old former military commander has lived in Spain and France since.

Two anti-corruption groups, Sherpa and Transparency International France, have filed a complaint accusing Rifaat Assad of pilfering Syrian public funds and misusing corporate assets, among other allegations.

Assad’s property portfolio in France is estimated to be around $217 million, and allegedly includes a chateau, a series of apartments and a plot of land near Paris, Le Monde reports. He sold a seven-story townhouse in Paris in July for around $95 million, according to The Telegraph.

Assad’s lawyer, Marcel Ceccaldi, says his client’s properties were acquired legally.

Click for more from The Guardian.