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A European judiciary delegation is scheduled to visit Lebanon to continue a probe into suspected corruption and money laundering by Banque du Liban governor Riad Salameh, a judicial source told AFP Tuesday. "General prosecutors and investigative judges and financial prosecutors from Germany, Luxembourg and France ... will arrive in Beirut between Jan. 9 and Jan. 20," the source said, adding that they intend to question "Salameh, BDL officials and the heads of commercial banks." The visit is the latest measure in the years-long investigation, after a multi-million dollar property seizure in March. The French judiciary recently charged Salameh's former paramour Anna Kosakova while a Lebanese prosecutor froze actress Stephanie Saliba's assets on suspicions of having been purchased in a scheme tied to Salameh.
The Finance Ministry decided to calculate income tax at a stronger exchange rate as the lira climbed back from an all-time low on the parallel market to LL43,000 against the US dollar after a modification to the Banque du Liban’s Sayrafa rate. BDL governor Riad Salameh announced an almost LL7,000 increase to the Sayrafa rate, which now stands at LL38,000 after the lira on Monday fell to LL47,000 on the dollar. Salameh additionally removed limits on buying dollars at the Sayrafa rate which, for the majority of depositors, were limited to roughly $400 per month. Amid officials’ struggle to unify exchange rates between the parallel market rate, the Sayrafa rate and the official rate — increased tenfold to LL15,000 after an almost 30-year peg — the Finance Ministry divided retroactive income tax calculations for employees receiving payments in dollars between LL8,000 for the first 10 months of 2022 and the new official rate for the remainder.
Lebanon will receive 100,000 new biometric passports early next year, General Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim said Monday amid a months-long backlog to meet increased demand for travel documents. "We should have received one million passports within six months," Ibrahim added, speaking in an interview with the Kuwaiti daily Alanbaa, after no follow-up came on a promise to improve waiting times by October. “There is no passport crisis,” the General Security chief continued, claiming that “an increase in demand” is behind citizens having to wait over a year for an appointment to renew their passports. Ibrahim tacitly linked the increase in demand to panic over passport shortages, claiming that 22,000 passports have still not been claimed by their owners and that 69 percent of the people who obtained passports recently have not yet used them. General Security increased passport renewal processing fees in November.
Unidentified attackers on Monday night attempted arson against local television Al Jadeed's headquarters in Beirut after the airing of a controversial sketch. The station staff said an unexploded molotov cocktail had been thrown at their Moseitbeh headquarters, though no direct reference to the sketch was made by the attackers. A skit in the comedy program Fachet Khele ("Blowing off steam") implied that southern Lebanese women had sexual relations with United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon peacekeepers, who were said to have engendered "the majority of children in the South." Parliamentary Information Commission head Hezbollah MP Ibrahim Moussawi and the Shiite High Council, among others, criticized the sketch. The attempt at humor follows the killing of Irish UN peacekeeper Sean Rooney on Dec. 14 in an attack on a UNIFIL convoy which also injured three other soldiers. Hezbollah reportedly handed over a perpetrator in the attack after a security source told AFP that at least two assailants acted on a premeditated plan against the peacekeepers. This is not the first attack on Al Jadeed headquarters, which was raided by Amal Movement supporters in 2017 and pelted with grenades in 2019, according to Qatari news site Al-Jazeera. Controversial media personalities and outlets continue to face threats amid lackluster protections.
Nearly two dozen members of opposition party Citizens in a State (MMFD) have resigned after an amendment to internal bylaws paving the way for current leader Charbel Nahas to run for an additional term. “Those opposed to this proposal resigned and those who remained voted on it, which was not right,” an MMFD member anonymously told L'Orient Today. Resigned members likened the amendment to a breach of trust while some considered it only one portion of the issues affecting the party. Former Labor Minister Charbel Nahas, who co-founded the party in 2016, is serving his second term as MMFD Secretary-General amid criticisms of alienating voters through rash behavior. Despite receiving a total of 70,782 list and preferential votes in the May 2022 Parliamentary elections, no MMFD MPs were elected.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Farouk Mardam-Bey: ‘If you want to understand the Arab world, read its literature’”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz