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Parliament session postponement, Bassil speaks, land registry corruption crackdown: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, Dec. 7

Parliament session postponement, Bassil speaks, land registry corruption crackdown: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil. (Credit: AFP archive photo)

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Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has indefinitely postponed a Parliament session previously scheduled for today after a number of MPs announced a boycott. The session was due to tackle purported corruption in the telecoms sector. The postponement aims to “clear the way for the participation of the majority of the Parliament,” Berri’s office said in a statement. The session was intended to discuss “major irregularities, [alleged] corruption and a waste of billions of dollars” as well as complaints filed against several former telecommunications ministers. Boycotting MPs explained their position as a refusal to hold parliamentary sessions not dedicated to electing a head of state amid the presidential vacuum. Michel Aoun’s presidential term ended on Oct. 31. Parliament is scheduled to meet on Thursday for a ninth attempt to elect his successor.

Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Joumblatt filed a lawsuit against Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Judge Ghada Aoun over a deleted month-old tweet containing alleged information about his offshore wealth. Joumblatt’s name appeared alongside others in an image shared on Twitter by Judge Aoun in early November. The image reportedly listed Lebanese officials who possess Swiss bank accounts frozen by the US administration. Immediately after Aoun’s tweet, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, whose name appeared alongside his wife’s and Joumblatt’s, filed a complaint accusing the judge of “defamation, incitement to religious discord, slander and abuse of power.” Aoun, under the banner of fighting corruption, has found herself a controversial judge for suing prominent political figures — including caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati as well as high-ranking Energy Ministry and Vehicle Registration Center officials — seizing bank assets and storming companies’ headquarters.

FPM head Gebran Bassil indicated a possible deviation from the party’s blank voting streak during Parliament’s presidential election sessions. FPM MPs — which, along with those of Hezbollah and their allies, have so far repeatedly cast blank votes during presidential election sessions — could ​​”get out of the blank ballot strategy and go towards a presidential candidate,” Bassil said. The FPM disagrees with Hezbollah on its apparent support for the election of Marada head Sleiman Frangieh to the presidency. The FPM had also called for the boycott of Monday’s cabinet meeting — a meeting caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati justified by citing Parliament’s approval and the urgency of the matters discussed, and one which Hezbollah supported.

Prosecutors are building a case alleging embezzlement and corruption in the Mount Lebanon land registry, a judicial source told L’Orient Today. A recent discovery by Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal prosecutors sparked an investigation into decades’ worth of bribery, reportedly amassing huge sums from taxpayers and causing significant losses for the state. Practices identified include employees extorting bribes to complete registration and accepting payment to forge information. The latest crackdown on corruption follows the arrest of several high-ranking officials at the Vehicle Registration Center under suspicions of embezzlement.

Lebanon shipped 15 tons of hazardous medical waste — which is impossible to dispose of locally — to France. Caretaker Environment Minister Nasser Yassin, overseeing the shipment, said that “kinds of products must be treated in an incinerator with international specifications and at a temperature of more than 1,400 degrees Celsius. Lebanon does not have such an incinerator.” The cost of shipping is borne by Treveria, a sustainable development company, and the waste-producing medical institutions, Yassin added, warning of the “catastrophic” environmental impact the untreated waste could pose.

In case you missed it, here's our must-read story from yesterday: “Fouad Chehab’s forgotten plans for Beirut … and its city center”

Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has indefinitely postponed a Parliament session previously scheduled for today after a number of MPs announced a boycott. The session was due to tackle purported corruption in the telecoms sector. The postponement aims to “clear the way for the participation of the majority of the Parliament,”...