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JUSTICE

Michel Aoun thrust into the spotlight for alleged transfer of funds abroad

The decades-old case was recently brought to the attention of the Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal by an activist lawyer. However, Ghada Aoun, the court’s General Prosecutor, has declared herself incompetent to preside over the matter.

Michel Aoun thrust into the spotlight for alleged transfer of funds abroad

Former President Michel Aoun. (Credit: AFP)

Since Wednesday, former President Michel Aoun has become the subject of a request for disclosure of information before Ghada Aoun, the prosecutor at the Court of Appeal of Mount Lebanon.

Michel Aoun faces accusations of “theft of public funds, embezzlement of funds from the Lebanese army, money laundering and illegal enrichment.”

Louay Ghandour, a lawyer, activist, and President of the Lebanese Anti-Corruption Action Force, has filed a complaint targeting the wife and brother-in-law of the former head of state.

The complaint is based on old revelations by General Issam Abou Jamra, a former minister in the government of Aoun (1988-1990), about the transfer of public funds to the personal account of Nadia Aoun and her brother in 1989.

Jamra's comments were recently brought to light by Charles Ayoub, the editor-in-chief of the Lebanese al-Diyar newspaper, during a television interview on the MTV television channel, which prompted Ghandour to file the complaint.

Personal use

Jamra told L’Orient-Le Jour that “[Aoun] transferred $15 million from a $30 million account held in Lebanon under the name of the transitional government to a foreign account owned by his wife and her brother.”

“These funds were a gift from former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, whom I had solicited [during my previous role] as deputy prime minister and economy minister, to cover army soldiers’ salaries,” Jamra said.

He explained that at the time, the conflict between the parallel governments of Aoun and former Prime Minister Selim Hoss prevented the deposit of received funds into the Treasury due to budget disputes.

“Michel Aoun spent about $3 million on the public sector, including Tele Lebanon,” Jamra said, noting that “the remaining $12 million were seized during the term of former President Elias Hraoui [in 1990].”

“He received the $12 million from Mohammad Safadi, then finance minister, in 2016,” he said, expressing his regret that Aoun had used the funds for personal purposes.

Voices close to the former president have been quick to defend him.

Former minister of the Free Patriotic Movement, Nada Boustany, tweeted yesterday that Michel Aoun had been slandered in the past for an alleged money transfer to France, but the justice system had already made its decision.

“Bringing up the issue again despite the fact that the matter had been legally settled is a cheap provocation,” she added.

Pro-Aoun supporters on social media have also mentioned the limitation of action by lapse of time.

However, Ghandour believes that “this challenge in form does not negate the fact that in substance, the perpetration of the offenses has not been denied.”

Why Ghada Aoun?

When asked why he filed a complaint before Judge Ghada Aoun, who is known to be close to the Free Patriotic Movement and especially Michel Aoun, Ghandour explained that she has territorial jurisdiction in this case.

“The offenses were committed in Baabda and their perpetrator resides in Mount Lebanon,” he said.

Ghandour mentioned that "Ms. Aoun referred the request for the opening of the judicial investigation to chief public prosecutor Ghassan Oueidate, who passed the buck [Thursday] by requesting her to take the necessary measures."

However, Ghada Aoun clarified that she has not received any communication from Oueidat regarding this matter.

“It is not within my remit to handle a complaint filed against a former head of state,” Aoun stated. “The decision to refer the case to Parliament, which should then decide whether to refer it to the Supreme Council, a judicial body responsible for trying presidents and ministers, rests with the public prosecutor at the Court of Cassation.”

Ghandour, on the other hand stated, “I respect [Ghada Aoun], who has repeatedly expressed her willingness to consider any complaint presented to her in the context of the fight against corruption.”

He believes that she now faces a dilemma: either to close the case and continue to face criticism for political bias, or to prosecute the former president and become a target of reproach from the Aounist camp.

This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Sahar Ghoussoub.


Since Wednesday, former President Michel Aoun has become the subject of a request for disclosure of information before Ghada Aoun, the prosecutor at the Court of Appeal of Mount Lebanon. Michel Aoun faces accusations of “theft of public funds, embezzlement of funds from the Lebanese army, money laundering and illegal enrichment.”Louay Ghandour, a lawyer, activist, and President of the...