LONDON: Secret UK assets belonging to Syrian President Bashar Assad and members of his regime could be used to compensate victims of a plane hijacking that claimed the lives of 58 people in 1958.
The High Court in London ruled on Tuesday that details about the location of the assets could be legally revealed after the UK Treasury claimed that EU sanctions prevented it from doing so.
Presiding Judge Justice Kerr said the Treasury was not legally prevented from assisting the claimants in the case.
The case in question has been brought by several airline insurance companies that paid out in the wake of the hijacking of EgyptAir flight 468, flying from Cairo to Athens in 1958.
The flight was forced to divert to Malta after it was taken over by members of Palestinian terrorist group Abu Nidal.
Egyptian special forces retook the plane after the group began executing US and Israeli hostages on board, in an attack the companies say was backed by Damascus.
Their claim has been brought against Assad himself, the Syrian regime and three members of the country’s air force intelligence service.
In 2011, a US court granted the companies $51.5 million from the Syrian regime after ruling it legally responsible for the hijacking.
This ruling was later reaffirmed by the High Court in London, which stated that it was applicable under UK law in 2018.
Assad trained as a surgeon at the Western Eye Hospital in London before succeeding his father as president of Syria.
His wife Asma was also educated in London, and worked in finance there before the couple married.
The Assad regime is thought to have around £161 million ($213 million) in assets currently frozen by the UK government.
In addition, the claimants believe that Assad has a personal account with HSBC bank in the UK worth in excess of the $51.5 million granted in the 2011 US judgement.