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Assad’s Exiled Uncle Probed in Spain over Money Laundering | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In this May 27, 2005 file photo, Rifaat Assad, the exiled uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in Marbella, southern Spain.

Spanish police raided on Tuesday the properties belonging to Rifaat Assad, the uncle of Syrian regime head Bashar Assad, as part of a money laundering investigation.

They also blocked his bank accounts. Relatives of the former Syrian vice president were also included in the raids and assets freeze.

Spain’s Civil Guard said searches took place in the southern coastal towns of Marbella and Puerto Banus. They followed a request by National Court judge Jose de la Mata.

A court statement said the judge is probing money laundering crimes carried out by a gang.

Two of Rifaat Assad’s wives and six of his sons were being investigated. No arrest orders were made.

Rifaat Assad is the exiled uncle of Bashar Assad. He was vice president of Syria when the country was ruled by Bashar’s father Hafez.

In March, a Spanish court said it would investigate a criminal complaint against members of the Syrian regime’s security and intelligence forces in issues related to state terrorism and forced disappearance of people.

The complaint was brought in January by a Syrian-born woman of Spanish nationality, who says her brother disappeared after being arrested and was tortured and executed in 2013 at a center in Damascus under the control of the Syrian regime.

It is the first criminal case against Syrian security forces to be investigated by a foreign court, said Toby Cadman, a lawyer for London-based chambers Guernica 37, which is representing the woman bringing the charge.

Other cases have been filed in Germany and France, but have not yet been accepted by the courts, he said.

The complaint has been filed against nine Syrian officials, including head of intelligence Ali Mamlouk and former Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa.

Although there would be formidable obstacles to bringing the Syrian regime members named in the complaint before a judge in Spain, Cadman said there was still an acceptable chance of them standing trial.