France Opens Probe Into Assad Uncle’s Assets

Air France-KLM may help Alitalia under conditions: report

Talking to media persons after inaugurating a roadshow titled, ‘World of Energy Efficiency for a better Pakistan,” here by Schneider Electric, a company which offers solutions for energy management, the ambassador said France was collaborating with other partners including Asian Development Bank etc on different components of energy-related projects and one of these schemes which cost $600 million would help Pakistan save 1000 WM. Replying to a question, he said France had international commitments and would abide by them with regard to the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project. The ambassador said Pakistan was a sovereign state and took decisions on their own for meeting its energy needs. As far as French government was concerned, he added, it would go by the international commitments, adding Pakistan had not requested for cooperation with regard to the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project. He said France was focussing on small projects including “Munda Dam” and other hydropower projects to efficiently ease energy crisis in Pakistan. Earlier inaugurating the show, he lauded the management of Schneider Electric for bringing their whole product profile under one roof. He said that such roadshows will definitely leave an impact on energy efficient measures in future. He said the roadshow was being held under the umbrella campaign Experience Efficiency to showcase the complete energy solution portfolio of Schneider Electric under one roof. He said the event would act as a platform to educate the national stakeholders about energy solutions and seek to address energy challenges by offering solutions that add value to one’s business in the long run while aimed at all relevant audience of Schneider Electric – end users, government entities and the partners, the event will also touch upon key innovative and industry leading breakthroughs Schneider Electric have achieved globally including Ecostruxure, Struxureware and Smartstruxure. The event is being leveraged as a platform to showcase Schneider Electric’s portfolio of integrated solutions that facilitate intelligent energy management for its customers. Benoit Dubarle, Country President – UAE, Oman & Pakistan, Schneider Electric Gulf said “Our roadshow offers a unique platform to identify new opportunities and a chance to meet with influential thought leaders and decision makers in the sectors we focus on – energy, IT, finance, government, hotels, healthcare and manufacturing. The event highlights the growing role of Pakistan in the Schneider Electric world and our effort to bring the best technologies and expertise in the energy management space to our customers in Pakistan.

But de Juniac’s comments signaled he did not doubt Alitalia’s ability to operate on long-haul routes – a strategy the group is betting on to revive its fortunes after its plans to become a strong regional player came unstuck in the face of tough competition and lower demand. “Air France-KLM-Alitalia, if one day we are united, could become a very great European brand. In such a scenario, we could supply (Alitalia’s) long-haul flights with passengers from Air France and KLM and they could do the same for us,” he said. De Juniac added that he could see Alitalia boosting its intercontinental routes where its own network might be weak. “Alitalia has strong points in Africa, Latin America and North America, where there is a strong Italian diaspora that can complement ours,” he told the paper. “Alitalia strengthens our commercial footprint pretty much everywhere. There are already many synergies.” NO CAPITAL INCREASE Analysts said Air France-KLM was unlikely to give up on Alitalia by letting it fail and opening Europe’s fourth-largest travel market to more competition. But Air France-KLM has set strict conditions on how the company should be restructured. Sources said last week that Air France had voted against a proposed capital increase at Alitalia of at least 100 million euros ($135 million). “Air France-KLM voted against the capital increase because the proposals on how to revive Alitalia were inexistent,” a banking source said. “The conditions have no chance of being met.” In the absence of other bidders, Italy’s bargaining power is seen as limited. The Alitalia board was informed last week of possible interest from China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, but Benetton said there was nothing concrete.

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.