PARIS: The uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad is going on trial in Paris, accused of illegally using Syrian state funds to build a French real estate empire.
Rifaat Assad, a former Syrian vice president and brother to longtime leader Hafez Assad, has lived in Europe since his exile from Syria following a failed coup attempt in the 1980s.
Watchdog organizations filed a complaint in Paris in 2014 charging that the value of his French real estate holdings — some 90 million euros ($99.5 million) — far exceeds his known income.
French authorities have been probing his finances since then, and an investigating judge ordered him earlier this year to stand trial for money laundering.
Rifaat Assad denies the charges “completely,” Cedric Anthony-Btesh, a representative of the family, told The Associated Press on Monday.
The trial kicks off Monday afternoon. The 82-year-old will not appear in court himself for medical reasons, Anthony-Btesh said.