19 May 2007

*Al Madina Bank Money Laundering Suspects Identified in Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon - State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza has referred 11 suspects purportedly involved in the Al Madina Bank scandal to Beirut Public Prosecutor Joseph Maamari. Lebanese newspapers citing judicial sources, on Saturday said the 11 were believed to have a hand in the case of money laundering at Al Madina Bank in 2003. It identified the suspects as, in addition to former executive secretary of Al Madina scandal heroine Rana Qoleilat (right), her two brothers — Taha and Basel Qoleilat — as well as Adnan Abou Ayyash.

Among the names in the report were bank employees Youssef al Hashi, Kazem Bahlawan, Fouad Qahwaji and Rene Kaado Moawwad. Lebanese press indicates that Adnan Abou Ayyash’s brother, Ibrahim Abou Ayyash, and his son, Wissam Ibrahim Abou Ayyash, were also among the suspects. It quoted the sources as saying investigation with this group of suspects will only focus on the issue of money laundering. The suspects reportedly included a person who had a “strong work relationship” with Qoleilat. Qoleilat, who is facing fraud charges in Lebanon, is jailed in Brazil for allegedly trying to bribe security officers to release her. She was earlier jailed in Lebanon for her supposed role in the disappearance of more than $300 million from Al Madina Bank in 2003.


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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.