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London's High Court of Justice issued the first verdict recognizing liability for the deadly Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast, the Beirut Bar Association said yesterday. The court found UK-registered Savaro Ltd. liable towards the more than 200 deaths incurred by the blast, which was instigated by several kilotons of ammonium nitrate that the company had allegedly purchased. The Beirut Bar Association was among the plaintiffs who filed the UK complaint against Savaro in August 2021, after which judicial authorities repeatedly prevented the company’s dissolution and ordered it to reveal the identity of its ultimate economic beneficiaries. The domestic investigation into the blast remains halted after a brief attempt in January by lead investigator Judge Tarek Bitar to relaunch proceedings, which were frozen for over a year due to judicial vacancies that prevented rulings on dismissal requests against the probe lead.
Banque du Liban chief Riad Salameh claimed to be innocent of money laundering, embezzlement and illicit enrichment charges leveled against him, his brother Raja and one of his assistants yesterday. The charges follow the appointment of a new lead in an investigation into the suspected siphoning of hundreds of millions of dollars in commissions from the sale of BDL assets through the Raja Salameh-owned company Forry Associates Ltd. The case was halted a year after its launch in June 2021 when the judge assigned to the case asked to be recused. Salameh is also the subject of an investigation by Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal public prosecutor Ghada Aoun and at least five European probes. A delegation of French, German and Luxembourgian investigators, after completing a series of hearings in Beirut last month, announced they intend to return to question Salameh. The renewed impetus in the domestic case could prevent the European judges from summoning and thus indicting Salameh, in accordance with the UN Convention Against Corruption, granting judges the right to refuse mutual legal assistance requested by investigators from foreign countries regarding that same case, Justicia law firm director Paul Morcos said.
Mufti of Akkar, Zayd Zakaria, scheduled a press conference for today in the Karkaf village in Akkar to announce the latest developments regarding the search for local Sheikh Ahmad Rifai, who has been missing since Monday. “We do not know if the sheikh has been kidnapped or if he is being questioned by the authorities," said Rifai’s brother Ibrahim, claiming that the cleric had not been threatened before. Despite the family's doubts, various security bodies denied that they have imprisoned or arrested the sheikh. Rifai is known for his hostile stance on Hezbollah and the pro-Iranian axis in Lebanon. Press reports claimed that the sheikh’s latest sermon addressed drug trafficking in areas under Hezbollah's influence. According to eye-witnesses quoted by the al-Markazia news agency, Rifai’s car was followed by two vehicles that forced Ahmad Rifai behind the Beirut Arab University's Tripoli campus, his last known location. Residents in Akkar on Tuesday held a protest calling on authorities to intervene in the search for Rifai.
The Higher Judicial Council called on the caretaker premier and interior minister to withdraw their decisions halting the implementation of rulings against commercial banks issued by Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal public prosecutor Ghada Aoun. The HJC’s appeal cited the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, which they considered to have been undermined by the executives’ intervention. Caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi on Wednesday instructed security forces not to enforce Aoun’s decisions after receiving a letter from caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who claimed that the Mount Lebanon prosecutor could not continue her investigation while being the subject of dismissal requests. Aoun on Monday filed money laundering charges and ordered a movable asset seizure against Société Générale de Banque au Liban (SGBL) and its CEO Antoun Sehnaoui — a week after taking similar measures against Bank Audi and threatening to prosecute any bank that maintains banking secrecy on the accounts of their chairperson, board members, auditors and supervisory committees.
A Lebanese ministerial delegation in Ankara presented their condolences to Turkish authorities after the devastating Jan. 6 earthquake that killed more than 46,000 people in Turkey and Syria. The delegation headed by caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and caretaker Public Works Minister Ali Hamieh “expressed its condolences on behalf of the head of government [Najib Mikati] and the Lebanese people, for the victims of the destructive earthquake,” the Foreign Ministry said in a tweet. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, presenting his condolences for the 16 Lebanese nationals killed by the quake, “thanked Lebanon, its government and its people for standing by Turkey in this tragedy and its initiative to help Syria in this humanitarian crisis.” Several relief workers have been dispatched from Lebanon to Turkey and Syria to aid relief efforts. Lebanese delegations earlier this month met with Syrian officials to offer their condolences.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read article from yesterday: “Lebanese National Basketball Team speaks about mental health”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz
Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.London's High Court of Justice issued the first verdict recognizing liability for the deadly Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast, the Beirut Bar Association said yesterday. The court found UK-registered Savaro Ltd. liable towards the more than 200 deaths incurred by the blast, which was instigated by several kilotons of ammonium nitrate...