Rifaat Assad, uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad, hired Israeli lawyers as advisers after he was charged with embezzlement in France, according to Ynet.
Assad's uncle, also known as the "butcher of Hama," was a high-ranking commander in the Syrian military and led a brutal campaign to suppress opposition to the Assad regime in Hama in 1982, killing tens of thousands. Rifaat later attempted a coup himself against his brother, Hafez, and escaped to Europe after the coup failed.
Rifaat, now 82 years old, was convicted of embezzling Syrian state funds by a Paris court on Thursday and sentenced to four years in prison. According to the court ruling, his assets in Paris and London will be seized. Rifaat denies any wrongdoing and plans to appeal, according to the BBC.
The former Syrian official hired the legal services of a number of Israeli attorneys, including Mordechai Tzivin and Gilles-William Goldnadel, a French-Israeli attorney. He also received legal advice from a former MK from the Likud Party, a former senior official in a government office in Jerusalem, a German Jewish entrepreneur, a Spanish Jewish businessman and two well-known French attorneys, according to Ynet.
A few years ago, a number of Rifaat's legal advisers introduced him to a former Mossad official in Paris. The official has since passed away and was not serving in any official position when he met with Rifaat.
Rifaat's legal battle began in 2014, when legal NGO Sherpa filed a complaint against him, claiming that his property empire was far more valuable than his known income.
In 2019, it was decided that Rifaat should stand trial for crimes allegedly committed between 1984 and 2016, including organized money laundering, aggravated tax fraud and misappropriation of Syrian state funds, according to the BBC.
Rifaat claims that he received the money as gifts by the Saudi royal family. His property in France and London, worth about €90 million, includes two Paris townhouses, a stud farm, a chateau and 7,300 square meters of office space in Lyon.
In 2017, his portfolio of 507 properties in Spain worth about €695 million was seized by Spanish authorities as part of an investigation into alleged money-laundering by Rifaat and 13 other people.