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CORRUPTION

France probes Assad uncle’s ‘billions of euros’

Prosecutors in Paris have opened a probe into whether Rifaat al-Assad, uncle of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, used illegal means to acquire his "extraordinary wealth," estimated to be in the billions of euros, it emerged on Monday.

France probes Assad uncle's 'billions of euros'
France has launched a corruption probe into the "extraordinary wealth", estimated in the billions, of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's uncle Rifaat, pictured in 2000. Photo: ANN/AFP

The preliminary investigation follows a criminal complaint filed on September 13 by anti-corruption groups Sherpa and Transparency International alleging the 76-year-old had illegally acquired "extraordinary wealth" in France.

Once a stalwart of the Syrian regime, Rifaat al-Assad broke with the government of his brother, then-president Hafez al-Assad, in 1984 and settled in Europe.

Hafez al-Assad was the father of current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is fighting in a civil conflict that has left more than 110,000 dead since it began in March 2011.

Before splitting from the regime, Rifaat al-Assad was accused of being responsible for the deaths of thousands during the crushing of an Islamist uprising in 1982.

The criminal complaint accuses Rifaat al-Assad of acquiring wealth "in the billions of euros" through corruption, embezzlement of public funds, misuse of corporate assets and other crimes.

French media have reported that his holdings include a mansion and several dozen apartments in Paris, with newspaper Le Monde estimating the total value of his estate in France at €160 million ($215 million).

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WEALTH

French ‘more wealthy than Americans and Germans’, new study reveals

A new global wealth report has revealed that while there are far more millionaires in the United States than in France, the French are actually more wealthy than Americans on average.

French 'more wealthy than Americans and Germans', new study reveals
The US and French flags hang outside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House in Washington. AFP

Credit Suisse' annual global wealth report revealed that the number of dollar millionaires across the world grew to nearly 47 million last year and they now own close to half the world's wealth.

The United States still leads the world in total number of millionaires. The US added 675,000 new millionaires over the past year, bringing its total to a staggering 18.6 million.

In France the number is far fewer, albeit the number of millionaires in the country has jumped by 93 percent between 2010 and 2019.

France now has just over 2 million millionaires.

The ranking for wealth per adult reveals that Switzerland comes out top ($564,650) followed by Hong Kong ($489, 260) and the United States ($432, 370).

But a different ranking that looks at median wealth per adult tells a different story.

Credit Suisse notes: “The ranking by median wealth per adult favours places with lower levels of wealth inequality and produces a slightly different table. Australia (USD181,360) overtakes Hong Kong SAR (USD 146,890) to gain second place, but remains below Switzerland (USD 227,890).

“New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom retain similar positions in the top ten, but lower-than-average inequality raises Belgium (USD 117,090) to fourth place, Japan (USD 110,410) to sixth, Ireland (USD 104,840) to eighth, and France (USD 101,940) to ninth.”

Well below France comes the United States where the median wealth for adults is $65,900 and Germany ($35 313).

Median wealth is the amount that divides the wealth distribution into two equal groups: half the adults have wealth above the median, and the other half below.

France has lower levels of wealth inequality to the United States but the main reason given for the difference in median wealth between the US and France is the huge levels debt incurred by Americans.

While in Germany there is far lower levels of home ownership compared to France which explains why the median level of wealth is lover across the Rhine river.

Credit Suisse estimates that one percent of the richest Germans own 30 percent of the country's total wealth, compared  to France and Italy where the richest one percent own 22 percent of the country's wealth.

 

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