29 October 2005

Lebanon Seeks Rana's Extradition from Egypt as Mehlis Ties Al Madina Bank to Hariri's Murder

Lebanese authorities have moved to extradite Rana Koleilat from Egypt as five new arrest warrants were issued for the glamorous heroine of the $1.2 billion scandal that ruined Beirut's Al Madina bank, which was lately tied by U.N. investigators to Rafik Hariri's assassination, An Nahar reported on Saturday.
Judicial departments are preparing the extradition file that will soon be lodged with the Egyptian authorities and the Interpol at the instructions of Lebanon's state prosecutor Saeed Mirza after obtaining confirmation that she currently lives incognito in Cairo, the newspaper said.

No difficulties are anticipated in getting Rana back to Beirut because Lebanon and Egypt have an extradition treaty for the exchange of criminals, An Nahar said, noting that Al Madina Bank has been linked to Rafik Hariri's assassination.

It has been established that Rana stayed 10 days in Beirut after her March 17 release on a $20,000 bail from 14 months in jail in connection with the fallen bank scandal. Syria's former intelligence chief in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh reportedly helped her obtain a forged Lebanese passport identifying her as Fakhrieh Saeed Mhanna with which she crossed the border to Syria.

She also stayed 10 days in Damascus and then traveled to Istanbul overland and finally by plane to Cairo, where she now lives at the 7th floor of Al Rayyan apartment building in Al Ajouza neighborhood with a former prison mate identified as Ms. Anette Imad.

The extradition request is being made on the strength of a charge that Rana had violated a travel ban clamped as she was released on bail plus five new lawsuits lodged against her, accusing her of issuing bouncing bank checks.

Rana was often reported to have handled enormous financial transactions involving Gen. Ghazaleh when she was executive director of Al Madina Bank. Ghazaleh was chief of Syria's military intelligence in Lebanon since 2003 until April 16 this year, when Syria evacuated Lebanon and terminated 3 decades of tutelage that had been characterized as a reign of terror. -(naharnet)

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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.