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The French judiciary rejected a request to return assets linked to Banque du Liban governor Riad Salameh which were seized for suspicions that they were acquired through embezzled public funds. The Paris Court of Appeal’s decision to retain tens of millions of euros worth of assets linked to Salameh “marks a definite step forward,” civil party plaintiffs’ lawyers William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth said. AFP reported that the appeal court’s public prosecutor argued for the seizures to prevent the loss of “any prospect of confiscation” in case of a conviction. The Lebanese government last month approved two lawyers representing its interests in the French case, guaranteeing its claim over assets seized in case of conviction. Interpol issued a red notice for Salameh after he failed to appear before French judges, who charged his former romantic partner Anna Kosakova, banker Marwan Kheireddine and his former assistant Marianne Hoayek in the same investigation.
France issued a second international arrest warrant for disgraced former Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, AFP revealed on Tuesday. A previous warrant dating to April 2022, from investigators in Paris suburb Nanterre, already targeted him over abuse of company funds and money laundering, in connection with contracts issued by a Renault-Nissan subsidiary while he was in charge. Ghosn is currently living in Lebanon after a dramatic escape from Japan, where he faced prosecution.
State telecoms provider Ogero’s hiked tariffs “will be 25 to 27 percent lower” than pre-crisis prices in dollar terms, caretaker Telecoms Minister Johnny Corm said yesterday. Corm said most subscribers' costs would go from less than a dollar at the parallel market rate to less than $7. The Telecoms Minister urged the cabinet to approve the new prices to allow Ogero to cover its costs. Cabinet's last session lost quorum before the scheduled discussion of telecom tariffs could begin. Mobile telecoms prices continue to top year-on-year inflation figures and surged upwards last year. Other state services, including Electricité du Liban tariffs and passport renewal costs, also sharply rose to match the lira's depreciation. Salaries, especially in the public sector, have been slower to adjust. Last month, fears rose of a country-wide telecoms outage after Ogero announced its stations were shutting down because it did not receive funds to refuel them.
Relatives of victims of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast held their 35th monthly vigil commemorating the tragedy that killed more than 220 people and injured more than 6,500. The victims’ relatives denounced the paralysis of the port blast probe, which has been frozen since January, after a brief attempt to relaunch it after over a year of inactivity. Last month, two victims’ relatives accused of rioting and vandalism during their protests pledged to demonstrate peacefully, citing the appointment of a judge to rule on complaints against the port blast probe lead investigator. Peter Bou Saab, one of the two men questioned, warned however that if no advances were made in the investigation by the blast’s third anniversary, they would “burn down the whole of Lebanon.”
A Hezbollah spokesperson denied Israeli media claims that the party removed one of two tents along Lebanon’s southern border. “The tents are still there,” Hezbollah spokesman Mohammad Afif Naboulsi told L’Orient Today, adding that the party does not intend to remove them. Last month, Israel threatened to use force if its appeals to the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) fail to have the tents removed. “Israeli officials believe that Hezbollah is discreetly seeking to avoid an armed confrontation with Israel by moving the tent,” one Israeli news outlet said. Border breaches regularly cause incidents along the UNIFIL-drawn Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel. One incident resulted in the Lebanese Army standing on high alert following a breach by Israeli construction troops. Another involved a Lebanese farmer who faced an Israeli bulldozer allegedly encroaching on his land. In the most recent incident, Israel fired tear gas on protesters near the border who stood in solidarity with the farmer.
After two brothers were murdered in Qornet al-Sawda, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati formed a committee tasked with arbitrating disputes over land and water rights in the area. The committee is also tasked with formulating a plan to protect the environment and identify natural reserves in the area. Mikati gave the committee a deadline of two months to complete the tasks. The circumstances of the deaths remained unclear, though disputes between the residents of Bsharri and the Bqaa Safrin locality in Dinnieh, North Lebanon, have often emerged over land and water in the area. The brothers were buried on Monday, while a lawyer present at the funeral told L’Orient Today that nearly 20 suspects were arrested and several others were being questioned.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Mikati backs down: No appointments in near future”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz