France Opens Probe Into Assad Uncle’s Assets

Thus, Frances Embassy is located in Tel Aviv. And every time an Israeli official should meet with a French official, the ambassador is forced to travel to Jerusalem. But in Jerusalem, there is a Consulate, the consul is one of the few in the French diplomacy who has a dual status: consul and ambassador. We must say that for France, the Consulate in Jerusalem serves exclusively as a link with the Palestinian Authority. And no matter if the Consulate is located in the heart of the Jewish Jerusalem, West Jerusalem (I say this even though I dont like to talk about a divided Jerusalem from East to West). The Consulate deals with the problems of the French who live in Jerusalem and the settlements, but the website of the Consulate is in French and Arabic. Exit Hebrew. Well, there is an Hebrew page: but almost totally empty and not up to date. Summarize: Paris does not recognise Jerusalem as Israels capital and has installed its embassy of France in Israel in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, there is no Palestinian state and the Oslo agreements prohibit the Palestinians to declare Jerusalem as the capital of a country (that does not exist). But France already created its embassy in Palestine In Jerusalem ! Mr Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel, In the recent years, the Consulate of France in Jerusalem was the scene of scandals that shook the Franco-Israeli community, but have hardly shaken the Israeli diplomats and politicians. While the voice of France in the Middle East doesnt count and its influence is close to zero, it is time for Israel to wake up even a little bit in front of the presence of hateful consular employees towards the Jewish state. And only when a woman, Marion Castaing, head of social services in the Consulate in Jerusalem, hit in the face an Israeli soldier, Israel finally woke up.

France to examine laws curbing Sunday shopping

A judicial source told AFP the investigation had been opened into Rifaat al-Assad, the brother of Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez, after a criminal complaint filed on September 13. The complaint, by anti-corruption groups Sherpa and Transparency International, alleges the 76-year-old illegally acquired “extraordinary wealth” in France through corrupt schemes and embezzlement. Once a stalwart of the Syrian authorities, Rifaat al-Assad broke with his brother’s government in 1984 and reportedly has no links with the current regime, which 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 a Sunni Islamist uprising in 1982. The massacre in the town of Hama, by troops allegedly under Rifaat al-Assad’s command, left between 10,000 and 25,000 dead. Rifaat al-Assad has denied any involvement and in 2011 dismissed allegations he was behind the killings as “a myth.” 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, noting that he had “no known professional activity.” The head of Sherpa, William Bourdon, welcomed the prosecutors’ decision as a “first step” but said a full probe by investigating magistrates needed to be launched. “It is obvious that only an examining magistrate has the necessary authority to deal with offences of such a complex and international nature,” he told AFP, adding that a magistrate would also have more power to seize assets. French media have reported that Rifaat al-Assad’s 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 euros ($215 million). Le Monde reported earlier this year that the potential sale of one of his properties — a mansion on the prestigious Avenue Foch — fell through after potential Russian buyers offered only 70 million euros. Once considered a possible successor to his brother, Rifaat al-Assad fled to France after being placed under house arrest following a failed coup attempt. His estrangement from the regime means he has not been affected by the freezing of assets and travel restrictions imposed by the European Union against Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle. Rifaat’s son, Siwar al-Assad, told France Info radio earlier that the family’s wealth was legitimate and promised to cooperate with any investigation. He said that after settling in France his father had received funds from “states, leaders and friends abroad.” “We are utterly transparent in our investments, nothing was done in secret, the origins of our funds were completely legal,” he said.

A sporadic debate revived last week after a court, ruling on an unfair-competition lawsuit brought by a rival hardware vendor, ordered home improvement chains Leroy Merlin and Castorama to shut 14 Paris-area stores on Sundays. It threatened fines of 120,000 euros ($162,000) on each store that violated the rules. The stores got temporary waivers, but their employees were growling insisting that Sunday openings give them needed extra pay and suit customers who find it hard to shop during the work week bustle. “We want to work Sunday! Let us work!” said Gerard Fillon, spokesman for an association of employees whose name translates as Sunday’s Handymen, and a Leroy Merlin employee. At one store in Gennevilliers, some employees dressed in T-shirts with “Yes Week End” written on them. Ayrault commissioned a panel to report on the complex issue by late November. “The government notes that Sunday rest is an essential principle in terms of protecting workers and social cohesion” while recognizing that “the existence of Sunday work is a reality,” his office said in a noncommittal statement. The current debate stems from a 2009 move by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right government that eased back curbs on Sunday store openings. The efforts faced political opposition and resulted in a mish-mash of legal waivers, special-zone exemptions and other loopholes. Most French consumers are used to the country’s Sunday rhythm: Shopping is restricted to tourist areas or owner-operated stores. Restaurants are exempt, but even supermarkets only open a half-day with some exceptions. France, the world’s most visited country, gets 7 percent of its gross domestic product from tourism.