Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

When “Pure Money” Disappears | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In the weird and wonderful country of Lebanon, the leadership of the resistance is currently talking about “pure money.” This talk is being repeated in the mosques and on the television screens stating that the difference between pure and non-pure money is that pure money is in the hands of the resistance, whilst all other parties are in possession of non-pure money. It is likely that controversial Lebanese businessman Salah Ezz al-Din – the main investment outlet for Hezbollah and its leadership – will declare bankruptcy, and so the issue of “pure money” has taken an interesting and dramatic turn that deserves to be monitored.

Salah Ezz al-Din is a shadowy figure and there is not a lot of confirmed information available about him; in fact there is only one confirmed picture of the man, and he has an almost non-existent social presence. Ezz al-Din began his business operations in the eighties when he managed a successful travel agency; he later significantly expanded his operations after 2000 Shia investors invested their money with him after he promised them a high rate of return on their investment. Hezbollah emerged around this time, and deposited hundreds of millions of dollars with him. Following this, the Hezbollah leadership figures deposited their personal finances with him as well. All of this [information] has been agreed upon by a variety of Lebanese, Arab, and Western reports.

These investors believed their money was being invested in promising areas such as in oil and gas, but after Ezz al-Din transferred huge amounts of money into his own private accounts, news surfaced [that this was not the case]. Reports indicate that Hezbollah officials were also angry when they realized that some of their deposits were being invested in suspicious sources, and they are now worried that the investigation into Ezz al-Din may reveal that the income [returned to Hezbollah on their investment] came by way of these suspicious sources.

The reason behind the collapse of Salah Ezz al-Din’s financially ambiguous empire remains unclear. There is a story that gives him the benefit of the doubt and that links this financial collapse to the worsening situation with regards to the US embargo on Hezbollah’s sources of finance. There is another story that says that Ezz al-Din suffered heavy financial losses in an arms deal that Iran was helping to fund after the ship carrying the arms was hijacked.

There is a third story that Hezbollah, suffering from a lack of funding from Iran and expecting an attack from Israel at any moment, withdrew its funds from Ezz al-Din in order to cover its costs. Hezbollah was already aware of the financial difficulties that Ezz al-Din was suffering from and so in order to avoid disclosing the full relationship with him, Hezbollah surrendered Ezz al-Din to the Lebanese judiciary and issued a complaint against him by way of Hezbollah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan. All of this in order to maintain Hezbollah’s image in the eyes of the Lebanese public.

[Hezbollah chief] Hassan Nasrallah has close personal ties with Salah Ezz al-Din, and has supported him on more than one occasion to the point that one of Ezz al-Din’s companies, the ‘Dar al-Hadi’ Publishing House is named after Nasrallah’s eldest son, Hadi. This publishing house also published volumes of poetry by Hassan Nasrallah’s second son.

These complex and difficult questions must be answered in order for this issue to be resolved, and in order to obtain answers on where this money has gone, and how such “ambiguous” investment could take place under the law and the state. Personally, I do not think this investigation will reveal anything to us, for this is merely a new crime that will be added to the dozens of [other] crimes that go unpunished in a country like Lebanon.