25 September 2003

Al-Madina Bank: The suspense continues

The Al-Madina Bank issue resurfaced following the return of Adnan Addoum, public prosecutor for the Court of Cassation, from his official visit to Ukraine.

This issue caused a political and media controversy when the special investigating committee of the central bank withdrew the case in which the bank is accused of money laundering.

Questions were raised and predictions were made concerning coverage of this entire file, which Addoum tried to clarify in a press conference he held on his return, at which he affirmed that the committee’s withdrawal of the case does not necessarily mean that it will not be examined by the judicial authorities.

Addoum’s press conference held last Tuesday coincided with the arrest of Ibrahim Abou-Ayash, one of the bank’s owners in Broummana after a pursuit of about two months.

The main person in this affair is Adnan Abou-Ayash, chairman of the bank’s board, who lives in Saudi Arabia.

More than 30 summons were sent to him through the Foreign Ministry and the Lebanese embassy in Saudi Arabia for him to appear before Judge Rabiha Ammash Kaddoura. However, Abou-Ayash refused to heed any one of them.

The outcome of the interrogations of Rana, Basill, and Taha Koleilat, Ibrahim Abou-Ayash, as well as Al-Madina Bank managers Joumana Abdelbaki, Youssef El-Heshi, Kazem Bahlawan and Iman Daher are not yet known. Ibrahim Abou-Ayyash has been remanded in custody; the others have been released.

The first interrogation addressed accusations that those involved were in illegal possession of foreign currency and that they had written bad checks. Ibrahim Abou-Ayash was questioned about a check with a value of 21.75 million dollars endorsed to Ali Ahmad. The inquiry will then focus on a check endorsed by Adnan and Ibrahim Abou-Ayash to Rana Koleilat and paid to the (central) Bank of Lebanon.

Charges that the bank was involved in money-laundering are meanwhile being investigated by the Bank of Lebanon’s special inquiry committee which, under Al-Madina’s interim chairman, AndrĂ© Bandali, (who has been appointed by the BDL) is handling liquidation of the bank’s assets. The committee is also empowered to guarantee that depositors will receive the funds they placed in the bank.

Numerous other charges pertaining to specific persons are being investigated by the general prosecutor for the Court of Cassation and the examining magistrate of Beirut, Hatem Madi.

The question is whether legal action will be taken against the bank’s owners following the inquiries, which are supposed to be finalized by September 28, after which Ibrahim Ayash would be set free, given that his provisional detention cannot exceed a few days, according to the law on penal procedure.-(ezboard)

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.