French groups file legal complaint against Bashar al-Assad's uncle

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Two anti-corruption organisations filed a legal complaint on Friday against the uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad alleging he acquired some of his assets in France illegally, an official at the Paris prosecutor's office said.

Sherpa and Transparency International France filed the complaint which alleges corruption, money-laundering, embezzlement of public funds and the misuse of corporate assets, the official said.

Rifaat al-Assad is a former military commander, widely held responsible for crushing an Islamist uprising in 1982 against then president Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, in which many thousands were killed.

Rifaat turned against the government in the 1980s and now lives in exile. He has previously called on the Syrian leader to step down, although in an interview with British television this week said Syrian rebels were behind an Aug.21 chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus.

Le Monde newspaper estimated Rifaat's wealth at 160 million euros ($210 million) and said he owned lucrative properties in some of Paris' most expensive neighbourhoods.

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