20 October 2005

Mysterious Rana Qoleilat using an assumed name in Egypt

BEIRUT, Lebanon, October 20 (Lebanonwire) -- The mysterious Bank Al-Madina's Executive Director Rana Qoleilat, who spent more than a year in jail for falsifying documents in an embezzlement case worth millions of Dollars before paying a series of bails that allowed her to escape and then disappear, was now located in Egypt under a different name, daily Al Mustaqbal said Thursday.

Seven months removed from a money laundering investigation tied to the former Premier Rafik Hariri’s probe, involving payoffs by Syrian officials to a number of MPs and media representatives, and despite several arrest warrants, Qoleilat had been on the run until the daily discovered that she was hiding in Cairo under the assumed name of Fakhriya Said Mhanna.

Al Mustaqbal discovered that Qoleilat is living with her former Roumieh prison mate Annette Al-Imad in an apartment on the seventh floor of Al-Rayan building, on Al-Ajouzat street in Cairo.

The daily said security forces have now a complete picture of Qoleilat’s escape (or smuggling), with information indicating that she left Lebanon a short period after being released on bail and entered Syria last April 1st along the northern border in AL-Arida area, accompanied by Wissam Shaaban, Mohammad Qandil and Tony Al-Imad (brother of her apartment mate in Cairo) to facilitate her exit.

The daily said Tony had allegedly helped Qoleilat secure a forged passport in the name of Mhanna, born 1934 (although Qoleilat was born in 1963) and used it to cross Syria into Turkey and then air-born to Cairo, where the fugitive got a residency permit for one year, based on yet another British document she exhibited at the Egyptian customs.

Qoleilat had until February 2004 enjoyed the protection of former Syrian Army Intelligence head in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh in collaboration with then Syrian-affiliated security and judiciary apparatus, the daily said, adding that the political cover kept her from ever being seriously implicated despite her arrest on several occasions.

Her last release came on March 17th three days after the March 14th demonstrations (a million Lebanese gathered at Freedom Square to rebuke Syrian dominance in Lebanese affairs and ask for Hariri’s true killers), which tipped conspirators that the Lebanese-Syrian security regime was not going to survive, the daily said.

Qoleilat was first arrested on November 2003 following an arrest warrant by judge Hatem Madi who was threatened not to pursue the matter and was subsequently punished when former pro-Syrian Public Prosecutor Adnan Addoum ordered the removal of his security detail and later demoted him to inferior duties in secondary judicial courts, the daily said.

Al Mustaqbal added that Madi later received threatening letters warning him to release Qoleilat from jail, which he did at a later stage.-(lebanonwire)

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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.