30 November 2008

* Bank Al Madina Conspiracy Time Line (part E): The Final Chapter


Immediately after the collapse of the two sister banks (Bank AI-Madina and United Credit Bank) and the complete loss of Dr Adnan savings at AI-Madina Bank amounting to US$ 790 Millions which were stolen by Rana, and the additional loss of US$ 470 millions transferred to the Central Bank, and the loss of all his assets in Lebanon amounting to more than US$ 500 Millions, Dr Adnan was furious and threatened to sue Rana and her family if she wouldn’t give him back his stolen money and compensate his losses.

This is when Rana pulled off the last chapter of her well designed devious plot and criminal conspiracy. By means of deception in which she is an expert, she convinced Dr Adnan that she will return his stolen money and that she has an account in Credit Agricole-Indosuez Switzerland containing more than US$ 4.3 billions and that she is willing to transfer it to him if only he would give her cheques for the balance of her account after deducting what she owed him.

She assigned the alleged bank account to Dr Adnan by means of an official “deed of cession” attested by a public notary. The cheques for the difference were then made by Dr Adnan. Later, after weeks of inquiries, Dr Adnan found out that the alleged Swiss bank account was another scam of hers and that she used some of the cheques obtained from him to payoff some of her debts, by giving one of the cheques (for 310 Million Euro drawn on Arab Bank-Paris) to the Central Bank of Lebanon to make matters worse between Dr Adnan and the Central Bank, and kept the rest of the cheques to blackmail him.

When the cheque for 310 Million Euro was returned unpaid from the Arab Bank Paris for insufficient funds, the Central Bank raised a lawsuit against Dr Adnan and he is now pursuing Dr Adnan in Paris and attempting to seize his assets in France.

In July 2003, The Central bank appointed Mr Andre Bandali as Interim General Manager of the Bank AI Madina and United Credit Bank.


* Dubai Nakheel Sacks 500!

A construction worker near the world's tallest building the Burj Dubai in Dubai. Dubai property giant Nakheel -- behind such grandiose projects as a one-kilometre tower -- has said it has fired 500 staff because of the global financial crisis.

28 November 2008

* Bank Al Madina Conspiracy Time Line (part D): The Collapse


Triggering the collapse of the bank was another chapter in Rana’s conspiracy and was orchestrated by her to bring about its liquidation in order to eradicate all possible clues to her robberies and money laundering crimes. The liquidity crunch that led to the bank collapse was caused by hundreds of bankers cheques drawn by Rana on her account in an attempt to withdraw the remaining balance of the stolen money. During the period of December 2002 and January 2003 (up to 5-February-2003, date of actual collapse) she made more than 400 cheques issued in her name and the names of her accomplices and drawn on her account for a total amount of about 150 millions dollars. That was sufficient to create a liquidity crisis and consequently cause the bank’s collapse.

When the bank collapse became a reality in February 2003, it was a completely horrible shock to Dr Adnan. At that time, he could not believe that this could really happen. How can he suspect that such thing could happen when two weeks earlier he received copies of letters from the central bank governor (later discovered to have been forged by Rana) that the negotiations for the merger of the two sister banks were well underway. How can he believe what happened, when two weeks earlier he had transferred 150 Millions US Dollars to the Central Bank, in partial payment of the amount that was requested from him in the said letters by the central bank.

The new developments of February 2003 and the news about the bank collapse dragged Dr Adnan Abou Ayyash into the eye of the storm and he 6/12 had to act very fast to clear his name and reputation and to safeguard the bank depositors’ money and to prevent the closure of Madina Group companies which would put at risk the livelihood of thousands of families. That is when his integrity and honesty made him take the decision of putting at risk all his remaining resources to pull the bank from its crisis and to prevent its collapse. He had only one option, which was to payoff additional amounts of money to guarantee the payment of depositors’ money. Up until March 2003, he poured another 470 Millions US Dollars to the Central Bank of Lebanon from his own money and had to tender all his fixed assets (land, buildings, etc..) to the Central Bank so that the collapse of the bank can be avoided. Unfortunately, Dr Adnan Abou Ayyash’s altruism, his integrity and all his resources were not sufficient to halt the collapse of the banks.

26 November 2008

* Bank Al Madina Conspiracy Time Line (part C): The Largest Robery


Rana used all kinds of fraudulent activities, including forgery, document fabrication and fraud maneuvers in order to pull off her crime of stealing the money of Dr Adnan and the depositors.

Dr Adnan was regularly sending money transfers to his personal account at Bank AI-Madina from his bank accounts in Saudi Arabia and Switzerland.

Rana used to convince him that the transfers were badly needed either in order to enhance the bank liquidity, or to increase the bank capital in preparation for its expansion and upcoming merger of the two sister banks. For that purpose, she even faxed him several letters and communications between Bank AI-Madina and the Central Bank of Lebanon in which the Central Bank agreed to the merger of the two sister banks (Bank AI-Madina and United Credit Bank) and to the capital increase provided that 180 millions dollars is pumped by Dr Adnan. Those letters were lately found to have been forged by her and are currently the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Central Bank of Lebanon Governor against the perpetrator.

Dr Adnan was sending the money transfers to his personal bank account # 69911 at Bank AI-Madina. However, Rana, with the help of her mob, was able to falsify bank records and to reroute the inward bank transfers sent by Dr Adnan to other specific accounts and then stealing it by withdrawing it in cash, or by cheques, or transferring it to other bank accounts inside and outside the country.

The total amount of these transfers made by Dr Adnan to his personal account at Bank AI-Madina was 790 millions US dollars which she embezzled completely.

The personal bank account # 69911 of Dr Adnan to which all the transfers were made was recently, and after the scam was discovered, found to be non-existent neither in the bank records nor in the bank computer system. It was wiped out completely with no trace of the 790 millions dollars. This confirms that an organized conspiracy has been planned and included among others, the swift department, the accounting department and the external audit firm.

In addition to stealing Dr Adnan’s savings, Rana was also able to steal the depositors’ money through many bank loans that she managed to get from Bank AI-Madina to her and her brothers and accomplices without any tangible backing or collateral. Her loan balance reached at one time 310 Millions Dollars.

"Bank AI-Madina Conspiracy" Main Events and Timeline October 14, 2004 that the bank situation is excellent and that its liquidity is the highest among all banks in the country. For that purpose, she used to show him the fake financial and accounting reports about the bank situation that she made up with her accomplices.

Rana’s golden opportunity was during the period of 2000 to 2002 when the General Manager, Mr. Ibrahim, spent extended periods abroad, in Canada and the United States, seeking medical treatment for certain health problems.

Everyone who knew this woman say that she is a wicked dangerous woman ready to do anything to achieve her heartless objectives. Lies and deception were her daily bread. She is a highly professional liar, an expert in bribery, money laundering and forgery of classified material.

* Lebanon Economy Strong Despite World Crisis

An employee stacks packets of currency, as she works in the Central Lebanese Bank in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008. 
Despite the international economic crisis and the problems banks are facing worldwide, the Lebanese banking sector has shown growth in 2008 as their profits are expected to rise by 10 percent compared to 2007, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said Wednesday. 


24 November 2008

* Bank Al Madina Conspiracy Time Line (part B): The Evil Plot

THE EVIL PLOT from 1997 to 2002

Rana planned and executed her massive conspiracy on two fronts, internally at the bank with the help of many key officials, and externally with the help of her two brothers, Taha and Bassel, and her father, Abd EI­Rahim Koleilat.

Internally at the bank, her prominent position, as the bank owners’ most entrusted person and secretary, her wicked mind and her skills in deception techniques and trickery methods enabled her to win the minds of many key bank officials and managers who were fundamental and essential in her conspiracy scheme, and to convince them to cater to her needs. Some of the methods she used to convince them were as follows:

By falsely claiming to be the wife of Dr Adnan Abou Ayyash

By threatening that she would work on firing them if they didn’t follow her orders. Noting that she actually got rid of many non­collaborating persons by convincing the general manager that they were useless.

Buying them off with valuable gifts and tempting rewards such as luxurious apartments and cars. She bribed them and used this against them in order to guarantee their silence. (More than 50 apartments were distributed as kickback to many managers and officials)

By claiming that she was backed by and closely connected to very high ranking government and army intelligence officials both locally and regionally and that she had their full support. This was sufficient to dissuade any disobedient person from revealing any information about her crimes for fear of their lives.

On the external front, and with the help of her brothers and father, she created a fake rich character, a relative of hers called “Ismail Tharwat Mohamad”, of Egyptian Nationality, who was married to Rana’s Aunt “Samira Sanadiki”, and who they claimed to be an extremely wealthy officer during the 50’s in the Egyptian army.

Rana preyed on Dr Adnan and Mr. Ibrahim’s honesty and integrity and began by convincing Ibrahim that Ismail Tharwat was well-off and that all the money she was getting was from him. In order to make the scheme more realistic, she even claimed that her family was taking care of Ismail’s only son, Mohammed, who was psychologically and physically impaired and that is why Ismail had been rewarding them for their benevolence.

To make her lie even more plausible she tried later to create another fictitious rich character, a man called “Adel Amara”, of Egyptian nationality who she claimed was a relative and a partner of Ismail Tharwat. Her deceitful plot swayed Ibrahim and later his brother, Dr Adnan who were now convinced that Rana sudden wealth was from her Uncle Ismail, the rich Egyptian from heaven.

All the above corrupted maneuvers resulted in mesmerizing bank employees and officials and little by little Rana Koleilat was able to create a web of deception around her with an important help and contribution from a mob of key officials manifested by the accounting manager, the computer manager, the swift department manager and the main branch manager. Rana, with the help of her mob, perpetrated the crime of stealing and laundering the money of Dr Adnan Abou Ayyash and the bank depositors.

Between 1998 and 2002, Dr Adnan was transferring funds to the bank AI­Madina, either to his brother or to his own account (account # 69911) with AI-Madina. The transfers were either necessitated by the expansion plans of the bank and the increase in shareholders’ capital needed, and for improving liquidity. Other transfers were also due to Dr Adnan ultimate intention to come back to his home country and live there permanently. Dr Adnan biggest shock, was when it was later revealed (in 2003) that the account # 69911 did not exist with the bank which means that Rana was crediting the funds transferred into other accounts and using them systematically. She had given Dr Adnan a saving passbook for the money transferred (about 900 Millions with the interest) which made him think that his money was safe but he did not know that this passbook was forged by her and Iman Daher (the main branch manager) and had no underlying funds whatsoever. She had managed to steal the money over the years.

23 November 2008

* Dubai in UAE talks over state funds

Dubai is in talks with the United Arab Emirates government over a loan facility that would make state funds available to companies as international sources of capital dry up.
The plan, one of several options under discussion by the authorities, would draw on support from the cash-rich federal government, bankrolled by Abu Dhabi, the capital that also owns 90 per cent of UAE oil wealth.
Dubai, which derives its wealth from its role as a port and trading centre, is at the tail end of almost a decade of strong growth but now faces declining real estate and stock markets, clogged credit markets and a collapse of oil prices, the main barometer of the region's economic health.
The emirate's ability to engineer a soft landing is vital for companies betting on the Gulf as a heaven of stability and a source of growth amid the global downturn.
The plan, which could be unveiled next week, would establish a facility for state-owned companies similar to a Dh120bn ($33bn, €26bn, £22bn) liquidity package for UAE banks announced in October.
According to officials in Dubai, the terms of the facility have yet to be defined but it would be likely to lend to companies that need help refinancing existing debt.
The economic crisis has highlighted the inter-dependence of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, and the crucial role of the federal government, which has at times been overshadowed by the rivalry between the trade and commerce hub of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the oil town that now has its own ambitions to diversify its economy away from oil.
Concern over Dubai's high level of debt has fuelled talk that stakes in companies will be sold to Abu Dhabi. Fitch Rating Agency says Dubai's debt is at $70bn, more than 100 per cent of gross domestic product.
Citi said Dubai's exposure to real estate and debt made it the Gulf economy most vulnerable to the global economic downturn. The bank expects consolidation among Dubai's state-owned companies, rather than significant financial aid from Abu Dhabi, but says it will "pull through with some help".
Dubai officials insist that the emirate has enough internal cash resources to refinance the more than $20bn worth of debt due over the next couple of years. But merging Dubai companies or launching initial public offerings to raise cash, are also options being explored.
Dubai has also set up a high-level committee to steer the emirate through the crisis, and is expected to introduce measures to reassure investors in the property market, which is beginning to decline after years of steep price increases. 


* US seeks $300 billion from GCC

The United States has asked four oil-rich Gulf states for close to 300 billion dollars to help it curb the global financial meltdown, Kuwait's daily Al-Seyassah reported Thursday.

Quoting "highly informed" sources, the daily said Washington has asked Saudi Arabia for 120 billion dollars, the United Arab Emirates for 70 billion dollars, Qatar for 60 billion dollars and was seeking 40 billion dollars from Kuwait.

Al-Seyassah said Washington sought the amount as "financial aid" to face the fallout of the financial crisis and help prevent its economy from sliding into a painful recession.

The daily said the United States plans to use the funds to help the ailing automobile industry , banks and other companies suffering from the global financial turmoil.

The four nations, all members of OPEC, produce together 14 million barrels of oil per day, around half of the cartel's production and about 17 percent of world supplies.

The four states are estimated to have amassed close to 1.5 trillion dollars in surplus in the past six years due to high oil prices that rocketed above 147 dollars in July before sliding to just above 50 dollars.

The daily also said that the United States has asked Kuwait to forgive its Iraqi debt estimated at around 16 billion dollars.


21 November 2008

* KSA: Implications of the Crown Prince's Health!

.... the Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, who has been sick for some time, could be near death. The death of this most influential member of the ruling al-Saud family will lead to a shake-up in the kingdom's ruling hierarchy, and in the short term would come at a critical time for the country.

Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz's already frail health is rapidly deteriorating, sources in Saudi Arabia told ......on Nov 20. Crown Prince Sultan's reported decline comes a little more than three years after the death of his elder full brother, former Saudi monarch King Fahd bin Abdul-Aziz. As those reportedly next in line to the throne are all older than 70, the royal family could soon see a new elite take over, one dominated by the grandsons of the founder of the modern Saudi state, King Abdul-Aziz bin Abdel-Rehman al-Saud. 

Crown Prince Sultan heads the Sudeiris, the most powerful clan within the house of al-Saud; he is also the most influential member of the royal family. His death is therefore likely to result in significant changes in the power structure in the ruling al-Saud family. It will also be a test of the newly instituted succession council, which went into effect in October 2006 with the enactment of the so-called Allegiance Institution Law.

Before then, Saudi Arabia dealt with transitions in an ad hoc manner. The new law governing succession is quite detailed, specifying how a new king and crown prince are to be appointed based on consensus within the 35-member body. As these rules and regulations have never been implemented, the next succession will gauge the efficacy or lack thereof of the new system.

Crown Prince Sultan would have taken over after the death of the current monarch and the crown prince's older half-brother, King Abdullah. But as it appears that the crown prince is likely to pass away before the king, the succession calculus is in flux. The next-most senior member of the family is Interior Minister Prince Nayef. Prince Nayef has a reputation of being quite right-wing given his closeness to the Wahhabi religious establishment. He therefore is probably not a viable candidate for crown prince, especially not at a time when the current Saudi monarch is spearheading a major reform initiative.

Crown Prince Sultan has long held the post of Saudi defense minister. Though his son, retired Gen. Khalid bin Sultan, is one of his deputies, we are told Khalid is not likely to succeed his father as defense minister. Crown Prince Sultan's second son, Prince Bandar, is an extremely influential member of the royal family. Prince Bandar served as Riyadh's envoy to Washington for 22 years until 2005, and is now Saudi Arabia's national security chief.
Crown Prince Sultan and his faction clearly enjoy a disproportionate amount of power within the Saudi hierarchy.

His pivotal position and the influence he enjoys have given him a major say in the distribution of the kingdom's petrodollar wealth, both within the kingdom and abroad. Crown Prince Sultan's death at a time when the West is looking to Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter of oil, to become the largest donor in international efforts to counter the global financial crisis could therefore have serious implications. 

From Riyadh's point of view, the kingdom -- which largely has remained immune to the global financial contagion -- faces two main challenges.
First, on the domestic front, Riyadh must ensure that successes in countering terrorism and in Saudi Arabia's ongoing program to deal with extremism are not reversed. The second challenge is more important. This one is posed by the rise of Iran, Saudi Arabia's main regional rival, in the wake of U.S. efforts to draw down its forces in Iraq.

These challenges mean Saudi power transitions must be dealt with as smoothly as possible, and must not lead to power struggles. While the house of al-Saud has proven resilient over the course of the last 264 years, the growth in the number of stakeholders within the kingdom is cause for major concern. During this transition, power increasingly will fall to a third generation of the royal family. Just how smoothly the transition will go remains to be seen.


19 November 2008

* Bank Al Madina Conspiracy Time Line (part A)

1974 Dr Adnan Abou Ayyash, a hard-working and highly reputable engineer, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1974 with a PhD in Civil Engineering.

1984 After having worked in Saudi Arabia for 10 years, Dr Adnan Abou Ayyash, had amassed a respectable wealth by hard work in consulting and construction of prestigious engineering projects all over Saudi Arabia, Europe and North Africa. Dr Adnan decided to invest some of the money that he had earned during these years, back in his home country, Lebanon. Thus, Dr Adnan bought a controlling majority in a local Lebanese bank (Bank AI-Madina). Since Dr Adnan was too busy with his engineering work and therefore unable to run the bank himself, he confined the management of the bank to his younger brother, Ibrahim Abou Ayyash.

1985 A young Lebanese woman, Rana Koleilat, was recruited as a secretary to the General Manager, Mr. Ibrahim Abou Ayyash. Rana had no formal university education, but was able in a record time to earn the trust and confidence of the General Manager and his brother, Dr Adnan, and became the entrusted assistant of the bank owners. She was later appointed as the financial advisor to the Chairman.
Because of her position, as the General Manager secretary and advisor, and the fact that Dr Adnan was constantly in Saudi Arabia managing his engineering projects, she acted as the Go-Between of the two brothers and consequently controlled the communications’ flow between them and was able to know their most intimate and confidential matters including becoming acquainted with the size of Dr Adnan’s financial status. That is when she started reflecting on her evil and wicked plan which had one goal only, getting her hands on this wealth.

1998 AI-Madina acquired the license of two other non-active banks “Foreign Trade Bank” and “Commercial Facilities Bank” that were later merged into a new sister bank “United Credit Bank”. During the years, the Bank AI-Madina operations were developing considerably and in less than 15 years the bank had opened more than 22 branches all over Lebanon. At the same time, the Lebanese business operations of the Abou Ayyash family (Dr Adnan and his brother) were also expanding in other industries as well through the Madina Group, a conglomerate of many companies in
various industries including insurance, real estate, beach and hotel resorts,
pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, etc.. The Madina Group and Bank AI-Madina together employed more than 1200 employees.

16 November 2008

* Further Jobs Downsizing in Dubai

Developers and contractors have slashed jobs across Dubai as the global financial crisis hits the region. Damac Group has cut 200 jobs due to the slowdown in Dubai’s real estate market, the company said. The cuts reflect the awareness of developers and contractors that the economic meltdown in the United States and Europe has frightened investors into putting the brakes on providing funds for large projects.

The firm said that redundancies were “focused in those areas that have been directly affected by the contracting market, including sales and marketing, recruitment and back office support functions.” Damac CEO Peter Riddoch said, “We regret that we have to lose colleagues but we believe that taking an early decision was the right thing to do.

“This continuing global slowdown will inevitably lead all companies to review their staffing levels and recruitment requirements.” Simplex Infrastructure country director Ani Ray told Construction Week that his firm had relocated staff away from Dubai to Oman and Qatar “to avoid having to make them redundant.”

“The banks are the problem,” Ray said. “They are not even dispersing the funds for projects that have already been approved so the projects are stopping.” Contractor’s Association vice-chairman Imad Al Jamal told Construction Week that Emaar and fellow master-developer Nakheel have cancelled projects.
Some parts of Nakheel’s projects have been cancelled or shelved for a year,” Al Jamal said. “A project director in one of Nakheel’s projects was in design with the consultant when the instruction came through to stop everything until October next year – a year’s freeze.”

Al Jamal said he was not at liberty to name specific projects. “Transparency is much in demand here,” he added. “It is all going on behind closed doors.”

A top contractor, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, said that Nakheel had been forced to cut 150 jobs from across its Dubai operations.

Nakheel officials denied the claims. A spokesperson said the firm had not made any of its staff redundant, nor had it frozen recruitment.

But the spokesman added: “Given the current global economic climate we are naturally being prudent and looking at the best quality and quantity of resourcing across the entire company.  This is a responsible approach in line with Nakheel’s business model.”

A top Emaar executive, who also asked not to be identified, said the master-developer had been forced to cut “a substantial number of its Dubai-based workforce,” quoting 80 at present, “with more to come.”

Emaar officials told CW that it had “no comment on this matter at present,” and refused to comment on any further potential job losses.

The situation could worsen over the coming weeks, industry insiders have warned.

“In December there will be more blood on the streets,” Ani Ray said.

“The worst is yet to come for the market,” Al Jamal said. “We have just seen the first repercussions of what has happened in the West. In the next three to six months we are going to see worse than that.”


15 November 2008

* Suzanne Tamim Murder (Update)

Egyptian tycoon Hisham Talaat Moustafa looks out from behind security mesh during his second session of trial in Cairo, Saturday... Moustafa, together with Mohsen el-Sukkary pleaded innocent to charges they orchestrated the gruesome murder of a Lebanese pop star that has transfixed the Middle East. Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim was stabbed to death in her apartment in Dubai in July. A month later, Moustafa was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and arrested for ordering the murder.

* Real Estate in Lebanon drop to 20% (arabic)

"الشرق الاوسط": العقار تراجع ما بين 10 و20 في المئة في أسعار الشقق

انتهى الموسم التقليدي لشراء العقار في لبنان، أي موسم السياحة الذي يشهد توافد المغتربين والعرب، وتزايد حركة المكاتب العقارية وتجار البناء، لتبدأ التكهنات بمستقبل أسعار العقار في البلاد في ضوء الأزمة العقارية الأميركية والأزمة المالية العالمية التي انطلقت من نيويورك وطالت أطراف العالم على اختلافها.
وقد راوحت تلك التكهنات بين توقع انخفاض الأسعار، لا سيما أسعار العقارات المبنية، وطفرة جديدة في الموسم المقبل، فيما البعض الآخر يميل الى استقرار الأسعار وهدوئها.
ويلاحظ الآن بحسب "الشرق الأوسط" بعد أفول نجم «الموسم العقاري» ان كل المؤشرات توحي بهدوء الحركة، ان على مستوى إطالة مهلة البيع، وإن على مستوى ندرة المشترين في بعض المشاريع.
ويقول رجا مكارم، مدير شركة «رامكو» العقارية لـ «الشرق الأوسط»: «إن بعض المطورين العقاريين لم يبيعوا شقة واحدة منذ عدة أسابيع. وهذا مرده الى الهدوء الذي يعقب العاصفة. لكن ذلك لا يعني ان الحركة العقارية توقفت، بل ان الاختيار أصبح أكثر انتقائية، وأكثر تمهلاً بعد أشهر من الغليان والعروض التي لا تستند الى معايير علمية ومدروسة».
وإذا كان البائع هو الذي كان يعرض أسعاراً تفاجئ وحتى «تنقز» الشاري، فإن المرحلة الحالية تعكس الوضع، بحيث بات المشترون يعرضون اسعاراً تفاجئ المالكين، اعتقاداً منهم ان الأزمة العالمية وتداعياتها وفصولها وارتداداتها ستفرض تراجعاً في الأسعار، وستعيد الربط بين إمكانات الأسر المحلية والاغترابية وأسعار العقار الحقيقية، باستثناء العقار في بيروت الذي تجاوز، في كل الأحوال، إمكانات الأسر المتوسطة، وبات من الصعب على متوسط الدخل أن يحظى بشقة دون 300 ألف دولار في أقل تقدير في أربع زوايا العاصمة، حيث هناك نحو 200 مبنى قيد البناء حالياً توفر هامش انتقاء واسعاً، ومجالاً واسعاً للتفاوض، وهذا ما دفع الخبير الاقتصادي الدكتور مروان اسكندر الى القول «إن أسعار العقارات ستشهد بعض التراجع في الأمد القريب في ضوء المعطيات المحلية والخارجية على كل الصعد»، واستبعد كل إمكانية لحصول أزمة رهونات عقارية في لبنان، على غرار ما حصل في الولايات المتحدة.
واذ لوحظ بعض «اعادة النظر» في أسعار العقارات من قِبل المالكين او المطورين العقاريين، وتراجع ما بين 10 و20 في المائة في أسعار المكاتب والشقق، لوحظ، في الوقت نفسه، ركود المبيعات في مناطق او مشاريع سكنية أخرى، ويعزى هذا الأمر الى اتساع الهوة بين ما يطلبه المالك من أسعار درج على طلبها في الأشهر الأخيرة، وما يعرضه الشاري الذي يأمل في ان يأخذ المالكون كل المتغيرات في عين الاعتبار ان على مستوى تدفق السيولة على القطاع العقاري، وان على مستوى انخفاص اسعار المواد الأولية.
غير ان الخبير العقاري، مدير مؤسسة «كونتوار الامانة» العقارية وديع كنعان، اكد لـ«الشرق الأوسط»: «أن الهدوء الحالي في الحركة العقارية مرده قبل كل شيء الى كون المرحلة الراهنة هي مرحلة الموسم الميت التي تتوقف مشاريع البناء فيها نسبياً، ويتوقف تدفق المغتربين على البلد والرعايا العرب الذين يغذون السوق عادة بسيولتهم وسعيهم الى امتلاك العقار في لبنان».
ورأى كنعان: «ان الارتفاعات التي سجلت في الأشهر الماضية هي بمثابة تصحيح أسعار وليست ارتفاعات غير منطقية كما يظن البعض. ولا ننسى ان اسعار العقارات في لبنان كانت قبل فترة غير قصيرة، تفوق اسعار العقارات في معظم العواصم العربية، اما اليوم، فلا تزال أسعار العقار عندنا دون ما هي عليه في تلك العواصم بالرغم من تميز العقار اللبناني عن سواه من العقارات في عواصم عربية أخرى».
وفيما يعتبر كنعان التصحيح بأنه يطال الارتفاعات السابقة في أسعار العقارات في لبنان، يعتبر وزير المال اللبناني الأسبق دميانوس قطار، وهو خبير اقتصادي «ان التصحيح سيطال اسعار العقارات في الوقت الراهن في ضوء تراجع اسعار المواد الأولية، لكن هذا التصحيح لن يكون تراجعاً بمعنى الكلمة، لأن العقار في لبنان، وعلى مدى متابعتي له منذ 25 سنة على الاقل، لم يعرف تراجعاً، بل كانت أسعارا تصاعدية على الدوام، وهادئة في بعض الظروف».
ويؤكد قطار: «ان أسعار العقارات التصاعدية باستمرار تركزت في منطقتين جغرافيتين، إحداهما تمتد من الواجهة البحرية وحتى ارتفاع 200 متر تقريباً، والثانية تتركز على المناطق الواقعة فوق علو 1500 متر، حيث مراكز التزلج والسياحة الشتوية، اما المنطقة الوسطى فهي التي تتسع لكل أنواع الطلبات، مع التذكير دوماً بالمثل اللبناني الشائع أباً عن جد بأن البائع هو الخاسر دوماً، وان الشاري هو الرابح ولو كان مغبوناً بعض الشيء».


12 November 2008

* Property prices in Burj tower tumble up to 50%

Property prices in Downtown Burj Dubai, Emaar Properties' flagship development, have fallen at least 22 percent, while prices in the Burj Dubai tower itself have tumbled as much as 50 percent, UAE daily The National reported on Wednesday, citing brokers.

UK-based property consultants Sherwoods said prices, excluding the tower, had fallen from an average of 3,500 dirhams ($952) per square foot to 2,700 dirhams in Downtown Burj Dubai, according to the newspaper.

The National did not say over what period prices fell. The newspaper did not detail what prices had fallen from and to in the Burj Dubai itself.
Brokers said Downtown Burj Dubai had seen some of the biggest price drops in Dubai because prices had previously risen so quickly.

Figures from international real estate agency Hamptons show prices in the development rose by an average of 88 percent in the year to September, the newspaper said.

Vincent Easton, the head of sales at Sherwoods, told Arabian Business property prices had fallen in Downtown Burj Dubai, as they had across the city, but stressed fundamentals in the area "are very strong".

Easton said the recent "sharp correction" in prices had been caused by short-term speculators fleeing the market, but that the medium- to long-term outlook was still very healthy.

"If you're looking to invest in property over the next five to 10 years you cannot go wrong," he said. "We are telling our clients that if you can, hold [onto your properties]."


* Dubai: More Cuts Jobs as real estate squeeze continues

More real estate jobs have been lost in Dubai after Omniyat Properties became the latest developer in the emirate to confirm cuts.

Alex Andarakis, Omniyat’s managing director of sales and marketing, said jobs would be lost in light of the global and regional slowdown in the property market.

He declined to reveal how many staff would lose their jobs but sources close to the firm told UAE daily The National on Wednesday that about 60 jobs are likely to be axed.
Omniyat is the developer behind projects including the cube-shaped The Opus which was launched in May and is under construction in the Business Bay district of Dubai, near the Burj Dubai.

It also announced in October that it had broken ground on Gemini, an 500 million dirham freehold office tower in Dubai's Business Bay, comprising 20-storeys and 260,237 square feet of office space.

“We have a number of projects in the pipeline, which will be brought to the market when conditions can cope with them. Considering this, there are likely to be some redundancies,” Andarakis told the paper.

The latest redundancies follow the news that Damac Propertiesis cutting 200 jobs across its sales, marketing, recruitment and administration divisions in light of a severe slowdown in the global property market.


* Israel Showers Bounty Leaflets onto Lebanese!

The leaflets were thrown in North and South of Lebanon presenteing a large sum of money to the whoever can give information about lost soldiers. In earlier years, people used to also get sms messages about similar messages!


11 November 2008

* Cozying up with Russia

Discussions claim that Saad al-Hariri, head of the Western-backed parliamentary majority in Lebanon, told Russia's Vremya Novostei on Nov. 10 that Beirut will start establishing contact with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia's two Russian-backed separatist republics, and consider recognizing the two republics. Frustrated with the United States' reluctance to provide the Lebanese military with heavy weaponry, al-Hariri is looking to start a bidding war between the United States and Russia.

Saad al-Hariri, the leader of Lebanon's Western-backed parliamentary majority, told Russian daily Vremya Novostei on Nov. 10 that Lebanon would start establishing contact with the Russian-backed Georgian separatist republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and that the issue of recognizing the two republics would be decided at the top level of the Lebanese government. The Russian report quoting al-Hariri comes after the young Lebanese leader traveled to Moscow and met with top Russian leaders, including Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Since the Russo-Georgian war in August, the only country (besides Russia) to have recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia is Nicaragua, whose regime was looking to rekindle a tight relationship with Moscow from the Soviet days. The rest of the world, meanwhile, has kept quiet on the subject, either out of opposition to Russia's actions or to avoid stirring up separatist rebellions in their own territory.
It might seem a bit odd, then, that Lebanon -- a severely communally fragmented country whose government is now a proclaimed ally of the United States -- is talking about recognizing these two republics. Al-Hariri's motives are best explained by his desire to undermine Syrian influence in Lebanon by empowering his country's feeble military.
Al-Hariri belongs to the anti-Syrian March 14 camp in Lebanon. His father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, was killed in a massive car bomb attack in February 2005 that ignited a popular revolution and led to the expunging of Syrian troops from Lebanon that spring. Since then, the Syrian regime has steadily rebuilt its presence in Lebanon with the help of its extensive intelligence apparatus, threatening to once again bring Beirut under its control. Fears of a Syrian return to Lebanon have only been compounded in recent weeks as Syria has amassed forces along its border with Lebanon, ostensibly to combat a terrorism threat coming from northern Lebanon.
In al-Hariri's mind, the only way to break Lebanon free of foreign intervention is to get the country to stand on its own feet, beginning with building a functional military. Lebanon is an artificially united country of deeply divided Sunni, Shia, Druze and Maronite Christian factions. It is a country where militias reign supreme and where civil war is an all too recent memory. As a former protectorate of the French, Lebanon has an army that was designed to remain weak in order to keep the country from getting ensnared in wider regional conflicts. As a result, militias like Hezbollah had room to become the most professional and experienced fighting forces in the country. Meanwhile, the Lebanese military, as it stands today, sorely lacks in coordination, unity, professionalism, skill, experience, weaponry and, most of all, the will to fight effectively against the myriad militant groups operating in Palestinian refugee camps, much less against large militias like Hezbollah or
invading armies coming from Syria or Israel.
Since 2006, when a Western-backed parliamentary majority came into power in Beirut, the United States has made a concerted effort to rebuild the Lebanese armed forces with about $400 million in military aid to Lebanon, making the country the second-largest per capita recipient of U.S. foreign military financing after Israel. The goals of this military aid were to counter Syrian ambitions to dominate Lebanon and to deprive Hezbollah of its status as the sole resistance force in the country. Most of the aid has come in the form of vehicles for internal security forces, assault rifles, automatic grenade launchers, anti-tank weapons, advanced sniper weapons systems, urban warfare bunker weapons, Humvees and spare helicopter parts. But the United States has for the most part refrained from giving the Lebanese heavy weaponry, particularly when it comes to modernizing the Lebanese air force. Such military aid would not only upset Washington's delicate alliance with Israel, but it wo
uld also raise the risk of having advanced weaponry fall into the hands of Hezbollah and other surrogate forces in the country. The extent of collusion between the military and Hezbollah and its sympathizers was most clearly illustrated in the 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, when the militant group had access to Lebanese military radar stations that it used to sink an Israeli naval vessel.
Frustrated with the United States' refusal to pony up more military goodies, al-Hariri is now attempting to start a bidding war between Moscow and Washington. During al-Hariri's trip to Moscow, he announced that Russia would sell Lebanon heavy weaponry, including tanks and artillery equipment, and that these arms deals would be discussed when Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr travels to Moscow later in November or in early December. To repay the potential favor, al-Hariri -- according to political sources in Beirut -- is pushing his colleagues in the Lebanese leadership to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as a political gesture to the Kremlin. Recognition by a country as small and deeply fragmented as Lebanon is only worth so much, but it would be a symbolic gesture the Russians would crave, and trumpet, nonetheless.
This recognition would not come without high risks, however. Lebanon's multiple factions are already severely split along geographic lines. Throwing support behind two small Georgian separatist regions could only enflame already deeply entrenched separatist sentiment in a country that has barely been able to hold itself together since independence. Moreover, al-Hariri's faction receives heavy backing from Saudi Arabia and consults frequently with Riyadh on major political decisions. If al-Hariri's trip to Moscow were sanctioned by the Saudis, al-Hariri's cozying up to the Kremlin could end up causing friction between Washington and Riyadh.
Russia is looking for another space in the Middle East in which to meddle with U.S. interests. Both Putin and Lavrov expressed strong support for the Lebanese government during al-Hariri's visit, with Lavrov stating explicitly that Russia was against "foreign interference" in Lebanon's domestic affairs -- a direct swipe at the Syrians. A falling out of sorts might be taking place between Soviet-era allies Moscow and Damascus, with Russia now more or less convinced that Syria has made up its mind to pursue a negotiated peace settlement with Israel and re-establish ties with the United States. A great deal of distrust exists between the Russians and the Syrians, and Moscow is well aware of Syria's past maneuvers to grab Washington's attention simply by talking to the Kremlin. In trying to firm up ties with Lebanon's anti-Syrian faction, the Russians are doing their part to complicate Syria's ongoing negotiations with the Americans and the Israelis, while at the same time workin
g to increase their leverage over Damascus.
Al-Hariri is playing a risky game by cozying up to the Russians, but while Washington is in the midst of a major political transition, the Russians have the time and space to shore up their influence in Beirut. The extent to which Syrian-Russian relations have apparently suffered should become clearer when the Lebanese defense minister makes his upcoming trip to Russia. After all, only statements have been thrown out and no concrete deals have been made. If Russia actually follows through with offers to supply the Lebanese military with heavy weaponry, and if Beirut actually takes the symbolic step of recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the United States, Syria and Israel will have to step up their diplomatic game in the Levant.


08 November 2008

* "Counterpunch": Obama, Emanuel and Israel

In the first major appointment of his administration, President-elect Barack Obama has named as his chief of staff Congressman Rahm Emanuel, an Israeli citizen and Israeli army veteran whose father, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, was a member of Menachem Begin's Irgun forces during the Nakba and named his son after "a Lehi combatant who was killed" -- i.e., a member of Yitzhak Shamir's terrorist Stern Gang, responsible for, in addition to other atrocities against Palestinians, the more famous bombing of the King David Hotel and assassination of the UN peace envoy Count Folke Bernadotte.

In rapid response to this news, the editorial in the next day's Arab News (Jeddah) was entitled "Don't pin much hope on Obama -- Emanuel is his chief of staff and that sends a message". This editorial referred to the Irgun as a "terror organization" (a judgment call) and concluded: "Far from challenging Israel, the new team may turn out to be as pro-Israel as the one it is replacing."

That was always likely. Obama repeatedly pledged unconditional allegiance to Israel during his campaign, most memorably in an address to the AIPAC national convention which Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery characterized as "a speech that broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning", and America's electing a black president has always been more easily imagined than any American president's declaring his country's independence from Israeli domination.

Still, one of the greatest advantages for the United States in electing Barack Hussein Obama was the prospect that the world's billion-plus Muslims, who now view the United States with almost universal loathing and hatred, would be dazzled by the new president's eloquence, life story, skin color and middle name, would think again with open minds and would give America a chance to redeem itself in their eyes and hearts -- not incidently, drastically shortening the long lines of aspiring jihadis eager to sacrifice their lives while striking a blow against the evil empire.

The profound loathing and hatred of the Muslim world toward the United States, which has always had its roots for America's unconditional support for the injustices inflicted and still being inflicted on the Palestinians, can fairly be considered the core of the primary foreign policy and "national security" problems confronting the United States in recent years. Why would Obama, a man of unquested brilliance, have chosen to send such a contemptuous message to the Muslim world with his first major appointment? Why would he wish to disabuse the Muslim world of its hopes (however modest) and slap it across the face at the ealiest opportunity?

A further contemptuous message is widely rumored to be forthcoming -- the naming as "Special Envoy for Middle East Peace" of Dennis Ross, the notorious Israel-Firster who, throughout the 12 years of the Bush the First and Clinton administrations, ensured that American policy toward the Palestinians did not deviate one millimeter from Israeli policy and that no progress toward peace could be made and who has since headed the AIPAC spin-off "think tank", the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Neverthess, since it is almost always constructive to seek a silver lining in the darkest clouds, a silver lining can be found and cited. For decades, the Palestinian leadership has been "waiting for Godot" -- waiting for the U.S. Government to finally do the right thing (if only in its own obvious self-interest) and to force Israel to comply with international law and UN Resolutions and permit them to have a decent mini-state on a tiny portion of the land that once was theirs.

This was never a realistic hope. It has not happened, and it will never happen. So it may well be salutary not to waste eight more days (let alone eight more years) playing along and playing the fool while more Palestinian lands are confiscated and more Jewish colonies and Jews-only bypass roads are built on them, clinging to the delusion that the charming Mr. Obama, admirable though he may be in so many other respects, will eventually (if only in a second term, when he no longer has to worry about reelection) see the light and do the right thing. It is long overdue for the Palestinians themselves to seize the initiative, to reset the agenda and to declare a new "only game in town".

Furthermore, in February, Israel will elect a new Knesset. Bibi Netanyahu, who, most polls and coalition-building calculations suggest, is most likely to emerge as the next prime minister, has one (if only one) great virtue. He is absolutely honest in not professing any desire (however insincere) to see the creation of any Palestinian "state" (whether decent or less-than-a-Bantustan in nature) or to engage in any talks (even never-ending and fraudulent ones) ostensibly about that possibility. His return to power would definitively slam the door on the illusion of a "two-state solution" somewhere over an ever-receding horizon.

This would constitute a blessing and a liberation for Palestinian minds and Palestinian aspirations. Their leadership(s) could then return, after a long, costly and painful diversion, to fundamental principles, to pursuing the goal of a democratic, nonracist and nonsectarian state in all of Israel/Palestine with equal rights for all who live there.

This just goal could and should be pursued by strictly nonviolent means. If the goal is to convince a determined and powerful settler-colonial movement which wishes to seize your land, settle it and keep it (eventually cleansing it of you and your fellow natives) that it should cease, desist and leave, nonviolent forms of resistance are suicidal. If, however, the goal were to be to obtain the full rights of citizenship in a democratic, nonracist state (as was the case in the American civil rights movement and the South African anti-apartheid movement), then nonviolence would be the only viable approach. Violence would be totally inappropriate and counterproductive. The morally impeccable approach would also be the tactically effective approach. The high road would be the only road.

No American president -- least of all Barack Obama -- could easily support racism and apartheid and oppose democracy and equal rights, particularly if democracy and equal rights were being pursued by nonviolent means. No one anywhere could easily do so. The writing would be on the wall, and the clock would be running out on the tired game of using a perpetual "peace process" as an excuse to delay decisions (while building more "facts on the ground") forever.

Democracy and equal rights would not come quickly or easily. Forty years passed between when, on the night before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King cried out that he had been to the mountain top and had seen the promised land and when Barack Obama was elected as president of the United States. (The Bible suggests a similar waiting period in the wilderness for Moses.) Forty-six years passed between the installation of a formal apartheid regime in South Africa and the election of Nelson Mandela as president of a fully democratic and nonracist "rainbow nation".

While it may be be hoped that the transformation would be significantly quicker in Israel/Palestine, it is clear that many who already qualify as "senior citizens" will not live to see the promised land. However, if the promised land of a democratic state with equal rights for all is correctly and clearly perceived and persistently and peacefully pursued, there is ample reason for confidence that Israel/Palestine will one day experience the tearful exaltation of a "Mandela Moment" or an "Obama Moment", restoring hope in the moral potential both of a nation and of mankind, and that the Jews, Muslims and Christians who live there will finally reach their promised land.


* IMF bails out Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund approved $16.4bn in emergency funding for Ukraine to stabilise the nation's economy, which is being pummelled by falling export values, rising inflation and the effects of the global financial meltdown.
The two-year agreement allows the Eastern European country to receive $4.5bn immediately in exchange for agreeing to a series of financial reforms.
Among them are agreements governing flexible exchange rates, higher funding for unemployment insurance and banking recapitalisation.
"The Ukrainian economy, especially the banking system, is experiencing considerable stress," IMF deputy managing director and acting chairman Murilo Portugal said in a statement.
"Falling prices for Ukraine's major export, steel, have led to a substantial deterioration in Ukraine's current account outlook."
The IMF has already agreed to lend Iceland $2.1bn and is in talks with Hungary for an estimated $10bn to $12.5bn in loans. 


06 November 2008

* 3abed Ta77an! (abul 3abed)

أم العبد:خربت الغسالة بدنا غيرا يا أبو العبد  
أبو العبد:شو مفكرتيني عبد طحّان
 تشارعو وناموا زعلانين
و تاني يوم
أم العبد :خرب البراد بدنا غيرو يا أبو العبد
أبو العبد:شو مفكرتيني عبد طحّان
وناموا زعلانين  تشارعوا
وصارت أم العبد كل يوم بدّا غرض 
على كلمتو شو مفكرتيني عبد طحّان مكواية ومرة فرن ومرة.......وأبو العبد معنّد
وهونيك نهار
فات عالبيت لقى كل هالاغراض بالبيت: قال شو منين
  قالتلو ام العبد: هودي كلّن من جارنا أبو صطيف لك روح الله يبارك بالجار المنيح
قاللها: والله من ايمتى هالادمي هيك وشو بدّو
قالتلو: قال بتعمليلي حلويات على مدة سنة بالمقابل أو بنام معك مرة
قاللها يعني بليتي حالك سنة بشغل الحلويات
قالتلو:والله شو مفكرني عبد الرحمن الحلاب

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.