Rifaat al-Assad

A GIBRALTAR office building owned by the uncle of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is being bought in a knock-down deal by a company linked to a government minister.

Europort Trust, managed by Financial Services Minister Albert Isola and two of his relatives, is selling 6-9 Europort owned by ‘the Butcher of Hama’ Rifaat al-Assad for £13 million under a valuation price, a court judgement shows.

The sensational ruling – which the Isola family tried to keep private – reveals that the property was bought for £17.5 million, well under its official £31 million value.

And furthermore, the controversial deal was brokered by a sister company – Fiduciary – also run by the family trusts of Lawrence, Albert and Peter Isola.

The purchase is set to go through despite hundreds of Assad’s properties around France, Spain and the UK being currently embargoed by the authorities, while he is being probed for money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.

Albert Isola

It also comes to light in the same month that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad was accused again of gassing opponents and his own civilians – including many children – during the bloody civil war.

Ironically the building houses various key government bodies, including the Financial Intelligence Unit (GFIU) and even Albert Isola’s own Ministry of Financial Services.

Under the deal, which has been revealed by a public Supreme court ruling, the property is being sold to Glenthorne Trust, which, again, is 75% owned by the family trusts of Lawrence, Albert and Peter Isola.

As revealed by the Olive Press, last issue, Rifaat – who earned the nickname ‘the Butcher of Hama’ when he killed up to 25,000 people in a ruthless crackdown on Sunni Muslims in 1982 – is currently under investigation in many countries.

He is alleged to have invested hundreds of millions into property in France and Spain – with more than 500 properties in Marbella alone, it has been alleged.

Spanish police raided 15 of his properties in Marbella last year after judge Jose de la Mata launched a money laundering investigation.

Many of his Spanish properties were allegedly bought through trusts set up in Gibraltar.

According to a high level Gibraltar source, Assad is ‘likely selling the Gibraltar property to unlock some cash while his accounts and property have been embargoed in Spain and France’.

He added: “Whatever way you look at this, this is bad for Gibraltar PLC. It is not good for our reputation.

“It is surprising that the French and Spanish judges did not force an embargo in Gibraltar too.

“Ultimately where did this money come from in the first place?”

A legal source added: “This is huge and the whole thing stinks. It’s unlikely to go away in a hurry.”