Dubbed the "Butcher of Hama," Syria's Rifaat Assad holds millions in European real estate. The uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad is reported to have a European fortune that includes two Paris townhouses — one of them 3,000 square meters (32,000 square feet) — a stud farm, a chateau and more than 500 properties in Spain.
A former Syrian vice president and military leader, Rifaat Assad is also known as the "Butcher of Hama" for allegedly commanding troops to brutally crush a 1982 uprising in central Syria.
On Thursday, a French court will decide whether he diverted at least €90 million ($98 million) of Syrian state funds to buy some of that real estate. In November, Spanish prosecutors accused him of stealing €600 million from Syrian coffers. He has denied both charges.
Several members of the Makhloufs, Bashar's close cousins and advisers, have sunk $40 million into the glittering glass and steel of Moscow's "City of Capitals" twin skyscrapers in recent years, according to the UK corruption-focused NGO Global Witness.
The infamously wealthy family is reported to have been key in maintaining Bashar's violent grip on power and their Russian investment may be a way for them to channel regime funds past EU sanctions, the NGO says.
When Egypt's Hosni Mubarak regime fell in 2011, his family wealth was estimated to be between $5 billion and $70 billion at the time, including luxury properties across London, Paris and Spain. Some of those were held by his sons through shell companies, according to the Panama Papers investigation.
When Gadhafi was toppled in the same year, Libyan officials estimated he had $200 billion in accounts, investments and real estate under his personal control around the world. A £10 million (€11.5 million, $12.5 million) London mansion belonging to his son Saadi Gadhafi, was handed back to Libyan authorities in 2012.
The assets of both of their immediate families and some of their entourages remain frozen under EU sanctions. Gadhafi's close associate Ali Dabaiba, who was part of an elite circle known as "companions of the leader," reportedly squirreled away $7 billion while on a salary of only £12,000 and a 2018 investigation alleged he invested some of it in prestigious property across the UK. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project said that included Scotland's most significant stately home still in private hands, Taymouth Castle.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hasn't been as secretive about his wealth but kept his 2015 purchase of the $300 million Chateau Louis XIV in France. The 17th century replica, featuring a gold leaf fountain and hedged labyrinth amid expansive gardens, was revealed to be owned by the crown prince by the New York Times in 2017.
Qatar's Al Thani royal family bought Paris Saint-Germain football club in 2012, after already plowing many billions of state funds into property across Europe. That included a 95% stake in London's The Shard, Europe's tallest building at the time.
In 2018 former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani bought what was thought to be London's most expensive home — a 20-plus-bedroom home near Buckingham Palace for $465 million, after renovations.
That same year, Amnesty International reported that foreign laborers in Qatar, who make up the overwhelming majority of the workforce, worked in abusive conditions on the country's FIFA World Cup 2022 sites for a minimum wage of $200 a month.
United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan personally owned $1.2 billion in London property, while deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan owns British football club Manchester City. Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's European portfolio includes a £75 million Surrey Estate and £45 million thoroughbred stud farm. Said to be a close friend of Queen Elizabeth II, Maktoum has faced a storm of controversy in his home-away-from-home. Last month a British court ruled that he had abducted two of his adult daughters and waged a campaign of "fear and intimidation" against his youngest wife, Princess Haya.