Assad and his family control $122 billion

A former ophthalmologist student, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made sure key relatives were put in prime government positions. The Guardian reports that Assad's realizable assets stand at $1.5 billion. If this figure includes assets within Syria, which Assad and his family control, the figure would be much larger at about $122 billion. His wealth is said to come from land, energy and licenses. Assad is known to hold his cards, money and positions tightly within his inner circle.

Bashar al-Assad's uncle sells seven-storey Paris mansion for $99m

A tale of two cities: The exclusive building at 38 Avenue Foch in Paris, left, which Rifaat al-Assad sold, is a world away from the conflict in Syria, right.

THE wealth of Bashar al-Assad's dynasty was underlined yesterday by reports that his uncle had sold a seven-storey mansion in Paris for 70 million euros ($99m).

Rifaat al-Assad, who was nicknamed the Butcher of Hama after allegedly ordering a massacre that resulted in the deaths of between 10,000 and 25,000 people in the Syrian city 21 years ago, put his property up for sale at 100 million euros last year.

This month, he found a buyer rumoured to be a Russian billionaire after knocking 30 million euros off the asking price, according to Liberation, the French daily.

Rifaat al-Assad bought the mansion as a power base from which he hoped to topple his nephew, the Syrian president. The property, in the exclusive Avenue Foch in central Paris, housed Rifaat al-Assad's home and political headquarters at a time a decade or so ago when the French authorities saw him as a potential leader of a democratic Syria.

The 75-year-old has been in exile since 1984 after seeking to depose Hafez al-Assad, his brother and Bashar's father. He had previously commanded the 55,000-strong Syrian Defence Companies, a paramilitary force that quelled an uprising led by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Hama in 1982.Rifaat al-Assad last year denounced as a "myth" claims of his involvement in the Hama massacre. He has called on Bashar al-Assad to put an end to the bloodshed in Syria by stepping down from the presidency.

The Syrian civil war has awakened French media and political interest in Rifaat al-Assad's assets in France. Apart from the property in Avenue Foch, he is said to own a country residence in the Forest of Montmorency and several dozen flats by the Seine in west Paris, where Sabla, his daughter, has a law firm.

Although a total of 181 Syrians were targeted under a European Union programme of sanctions against the al-Assad regime, Rifaat al-Assad is not among them. However, two Paris councillors, Laurence Dreyfuss and David Alphand, launched a campaign to add his name to the list a year ago. They represent the well-heeled district where Rifaat al-Assad owns properties. The councillors say they are concerned that the district could become a "refuge for dictators".

Teodorin Obiang, the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang, for example, owns a mansion at 42 Avenue Foch that was raided last year by police investigating allegations that he had acquired his assets through corruption. They seized vanloads of artworks, furniture, fine wine and a clock worth 3 million euros. Mr Obiang denies wrongdoing.

Rifaat al-Assad is now said to spend more time in London - he owns a home in Mayfair - and Spain than in France.

With a fortune said to run to billions of pounds, he has invested in Arab News Network, a small London-based television station. Ribal al-Assad, one of Rifaat's sons, is director of the London bureau. Rifaat al-Assad has a team of bodyguards who made headlines in Spain when they reportedly pointed guns at paparazzi who were trying to photograph him as he dined in a restaurant.

Siwar al-Assad, another of his sons, published a novel last year, A Coeur Perdu (With a Lost Heart), which was described as a romantic thriller.