Rear View – Lebanon in review (31 October 2021)
28 October: US sanctions three Lebanese officials for corruption
The US Treasury announced sanctions against two prominent Lebanese businessmen and a politician, alleging they benefitted from large-scale corruption during Lebanon’s economic crisis.
Jamil Al-Sayyed is a member of Lebanese parliament. The US Treasury claimed he bypassed banking policies to transfer $120 million from Lebanon for foreign investments with the assistance of an unidentified senior government official. Moreover, when protesters outside his home demanded his resignation during the Lebanese Revolution in June 2020, Al-Sayed incited officials to shoot at them.
Dany Al-Khoury, a prominent businessman in Lebanon, is reportedly close with MP Gebran Bassil, who has been previously sanctioned by the U.S. Allegedly, Al-Khoury and Bassil’s relationship allowed him to receive a $142 million public contract to operate the Bourj Hammoud landfill. The contract was intended to solve the garbage crisis, but Al-Khoury gained personal benefits instead, the Treasury’s statement said.
The other accused businessman, Jihad Al-Arab, has been granted several government contracts in exchange for kickback payments. In 2018, he won $18 million for a bridge reconstruction in Beirut, but community officials have expressed concern about its safety and cost. In 2016, Al-Arab was awarded a $288 million contract to clean trash-filled streets in Beirut, but the issue was not resolved. It was later exposed that his company added water to the garbage containers to enlarge their weight.
Al-Sayyed, Al-Khoury and Al-Arab are the latest members of the ruling class to be accused of corruption. Sanctions have previously been imposed on former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former Transportation Minister Youssef Fenianous.
28 October: Saudi Arabia labels Hezbollah organisation a terrorist group
Al-Qard Al-Hasan has been designated a terrorist group by Saudi Arabia for its affiliation with Hezbollah. The organisation was established by Hezbollah in the 1980s to provide it with banking and financial services.
Saudi Arabia has accused Al-Qard Al-Hasan of providing financial support to Hezbollah and consequently frozen all of the organisation’s assets within Saudi Arabia.
Al-Qard Al-Hasan has over 60 locations in Lebanon and evades taxes and banking regulations by claiming to be a charity. It provides the financial foundation for all of Hezbollah’s activities and other organisations.
Al-Qard Al-Hasan is funded by memberships, donations, subscriptions, community funds and support from Iran.
The US Treasury Department added Al-Qard Al-Hasan and other Lebanese organisations to its list of sanctioned Hezbollah foundations in July 2007.
28 October: Former Minister sues government to avoid Blast investigation
Former Interior and Municipalities Minister Nouhad al-Machnouk has sued the Lebanese government to avoid being interrogated by Judge Tarek Bitar over the Beirut Port Blast.
Al-Machnouk claims that by investigating him, Judge Bitar is violating the Constitution. The former minister intends to use this lawsuit to halt the prosecution process until a final decision is made. Former Prime Minister Hassan Diab similarly sued the state on October 27th.
Several similar tactics were used against Judge Fadi Sawan, Judge Bitar’s predecessor in the investigation into the Beirut Port Explosion.
Lebanese government officials have been trying to avoid being formally questioned since the investigation began in September last year. On September 15th this year, the Lebanese Judge Association announced that it would not accept any further requests for the removal of Judge Bitar. These lawsuits are the latest attempt to delay justice.
28 September: Lebanon, Syria & Jordan finalise electricity agreement
In a joint news conference on Thursday, ministers from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan announced the signing of a deal to transfer electricity to Lebanon.
According to Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayad, the World Bank attended the negotiations and had agreed to finance the deal.
Fayad also added that “The Americans have given the green light to the project.”
28 October: Information Minister sued over controversial Houthi comments
The Lebanese Information Minister, George Kordahi, raised controversy for calling the Yemeni Civil War “absurd” and claiming the Houthi rebels are defending themselves. The comments were made in an interview he gave before becoming Information Minister.
Three lawyers have sued Kordahi for inciting strife and disrupting relations with Arab countries. The lawyers, Mohammad Ziyad Ja’afil, Abdul Aziz Jumaa and Abeer Bannout, claimed Kordahi “is not an ordinary person but rather a veteran broadcaster, information minister, represents the head of Lebanese media and a professional academic and diplomat. His comment wasn’t just a coincidence or simple reaction as some are trying to propagate.”
They said Kordahi’s comments had endangered Lebanon’s relations with its Arabic counterparts, that he had breached the code of professional and diplomatic conduct, and caused a crisis for his country.
The prosecution has not yet decided whether to impeach Kordahi and refer him to a criminal court or dismiss the case.
The day before the lawsuit was filed, the Gulf Cooperation Council (which represents Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) condemned the minister’s comments, saying he showed a lack of understanding and limited knowledge.
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