The deepest of ironies

Gebran Bassil is suing us, but he should be the one answering questions

Gebran Bassil is now Lebanon's Foreign Minister

As we prepared to launch our new website last Thursday morning, the tranquility of the Executive office was disrupted by a gruff man clutching a bunch of papers. He was, he assured us, from the judicial palace. Gebran Bassil, Lebanon’s former energy minister and new foreign minister, was suing us.

The article of concern — from our special report on oil and gas in the October 2013 issue — focused on allegations that Bassil was seeking to monopolize control over the oil and gas sector. As hydrocarbons are a rare bright spot in a depressing period for Lebanon’s economy, we felt it was right to discuss allegations of malpractice in a sector that could be worth tens of billions of dollars.

In the article, we asked Bassil directly to clarify what had happened to $33 million made through the sale of seismic surveys. His response: “You are asking questions I am not really aware of, about details that are not really important.” As Bassil thought these questions were unimportant at the time, it is with deep irony that we now face meeting him in court.

For clarification, it is worth stating what happened following publication of the article. At the end of November, nearly two months after it was printed, a representative of the energy ministry contacted us to say that they felt we had misrepresented the facts. We politely disagreed, but after a conversation we agreed to publish — in full, both online and in print — Bassil’s response to the article, under the principle of the right to reply.

As it was by then the final days of November, it was too late to put it in the December issue but we offered to run it in January. The minister’s team asked if we could put it online immediately and then publish it in print in January, a request which we agreed to. We felt there was a gentleman’s agreement that the matter was dealt with. It appears we may not be dealing with a gentleman.

We did not want it to come to this, but now that it has we see this a chance rather than a curse — a great opportunity for the Lebanese public. A trial will provide us with a rare opportunity to question Bassil on his practices as a minister, a politician and a businessman going back many years.

There is, in Lebanon, an old (but seldom used) law on unlawful fortunes. Needless to say we are dusting it off.

Our message to Bassil, therefore, is thank you. You have given us the opportunity to interrogate you on all your practices over the past five years in power. We will see you in court.

33 Comments

  1. moonsear said:

    the slander law in Lebanon (kad7 wa sam) will probably consider you insulted him and will not look into the details of the case….exactly what happened to Charbel Nahas and Al Akhbar… I wish you and all of us luck again

    • lila said:

      Except that in Mr Nahas Case, Mr Nahas was so right while the author of this article is biased and publishing unodcumented things!

  2. george said:

    you might be true to a certain point, i wont argue of how much money did bassil wasted. but i know for sure that with him our internet got better and cheaper. this isnt an opinion these are real figures if we compare 10 years ago with the prices now. u can get a new no working for one month and has 2$ talking time for 5000l.l u can have unlimited dsl for 27$. according to electricity i used to pay summer 2012 150$ for a 5 amps now i pay 50$ avearge. according to gas and petrol no one was willing to take this a step forward in two years he made the impossible possible. even the near allies like berri wasnt happy with what he did. i dont think another politic is able to make such improvement in these sectors. according to me if i want to say he did smugle though i dont belive that, he is the least to be doubt becuase all 14 march has eyes on him and searching for a small error to convict him. and as u say in court reality will prevail, so if he had something to hide he wouldnt sue you. last plz let people like him work and we should be supporting him to the max and not making his life difficult. offcourse i dont support a robber but i am sure i prefer a robber who work and not a robber who stand still and also steal. so if u are that interested in defending the governmental money plz try to look elsewhere. there is much money wasted in billions and not in millions. and also the 33 millions are nothing compared with a deal of billions of gas.

    • Fawzi said:

      All that you mentioned (except for electricity) is under the Telecommunications Ministry, not energy. All those accomplishments were thanks to Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui, and have little to nothing to do with Bassil.

    • Paul said:

      So, what you’re saying is that it’s ok to steal $33M. Good to know how the Lebanese think.

      • Andre said:

        So Mr. Paul, You are placing yourself in the position of the judge and jury?
        Since the case is in court, let’s wait & see!!! and don’t jump into conclusions…

      • Ric said:

        There are no steal facts, but the only fact that your Hariri stole the whole country, and because your 14 stupid March movement, they accomplish NOTHIGN at all, that’s why you target people like Bassil and Sahnaoui, go get a life.

      • Alex said:

        Hariri might have taken something for himself or used his power for some companies, but he is the ONLY one who built something for ALL Lebanese.. and I love it how 8 march forget that most ministers were from their side other than the SYRIAN control over our country which sucked us dry. Wake up Bibol

    • RBla said:

      “offcourse i dont support a robber but i am sure i prefer a robber who work and not a robber who stand still and also steal.” and this is exactly what’s wrong in our country. we agree to make ourselves puppets to politicians. Thank you Yasser for this trial.

  3. Claude Salhani said:

    i would not be surprised if he suddenly dropped the case. Yasser, this is a great opportunity please let us know the dates of the trial and make sure their is lots of press people around.

  4. Bassilic said:

    Gebran Bassil should focus on filling complaints to the UN Security Council against Bashar’s regime for violation of our airspace and sovereignty instead of harassing medias who are rightfully questioning mismanagement and opacity of ministry portfolios !

  5. M.T. said:

    Keep going at it and keep us very closely updated. Bassil is a big crook, so is everyone pretty much. His unlawful wealth is flabbergasting and disgusting. While people are struggling to pay for basic things, this insect of a man is stealing tens of millions of dollars.

  6. Georges C said:

    It’s actually pretty nice to see that media is focusing on finding where all the money went!
    But I’m baffled to the point that I NEVER EVER saw one article questioning how the 14 thieves got their money, or even questioning the simple fact about “Solidere” which for all you intellects is sucking the life out of Lebanon “Daily”… Or just the fact that you didn’t even side with Minister Nahas with his case against Spinneys!

    So please whenever you want to declare victory or start waging wars against corruption, for the next time let it be for all!

    N.B: I’m sure the new minister of Justice aka militia man will appreciate your bravory…

    Keep it up

    • M.T. said:

      Stop being such a sheep. They are all crooks, right now we are talking about this insect because of the lawsuit. Dumb Lebanese.

  7. Nadine A said:

    للاسف ليس وحده باسيل يحاضر بالعفة، فالبعض يقلده ويؤيده ، ويختلق له الاعذار ويحميه.
    Good luck Mr. Akkaoui !

  8. Chady said:

    Is it a real anticorruption campaign that you are doing or just a Bassil paranoia act? I hope to see much more anticorruption articles and investigations and against lots of corrupted lebanese, not based on bias political selection. Looking forward to follow next investigation and see the results of that one.

  9. Sami B said:

    Crook. Hope he and others in Gov. rot in jail. Not in my lifetime unfortunately. Good luck exposing him for what he really is.

  10. Andre said:

    Well if all of you guys here are anti-corruption can anyone of you “experts” tell me how did Lebanon end up with a 60 billion $ in debts????? and I am pretty sure it was not the result of the last government rather decades of corruption…. Don’t involve your personal political views with what’s really happening, wake up, be objective and hopefully impartial before criticizing and hopefully one day we call “all of us” unite & get rid of corruption.

  11. Andre said:

    Well if all of you guys here are anti-corruption can anyone of you “experts” tell me how did Lebanon end up with a 60 billion $ in debts?????Most of you know the names but unfortunately are politically blinded & derailed from admitting the responsibilities. and I am pretty sure it was not the result of the last government nor the one before it but rather decades of corruption…. Don’t involve your personal political views with what’s really happening, wake up, be objective and hopefully impartial before criticizing and hopefully one day we can “all of us” unite & get rid of corruption.

    • Ric said:

      What kills me is when I see on tv something similar to a human called Mashnouk saying to the guy :” mesh 3arif ma3 min 3am te7ke”… leish min bikoun 7aderto aktar men 7arameh houwe w m3allmino. eza kel wazir baddo ysir wazir la y2ul mesh 3arif ma3 min 3am te7ke, e khedo 3a wozara.

  12. Danny said:

    The country is rampant with corruption. There is always mention of solidere everything hezballahs camp is cornered. Cherry picking these arguments is how the wilayet el fakih works, which indirectly feeds aouns supporters.

    I would back an investigation into solideres corruption, but unfortunately the men who knew all the ins and outs – such as the bribes paid to assads army and other Lebanese back then – have all been murdered by hezballah.

    Gibran bassil is incompetent, just like anyone else who made it through nepotism.

  13. Oliver said:

    Well, I don’t think Bassil will be afraid going to court anyway…
    Whatever this interview was and the reality of ‘wasting’ $33M if you want to believe that, there has be no Minister of Electricity and Water in the last 30 years who worked 1/2 of Bassil. The projects initiated, the push for renewable energy and energy efficiency,….
    Was it for the lousy political system we would have had next year 24/24 electricity.
    I am not defending the $33M which I am sure there are clarifications to but you better focus on the achievements and if you want to talk on wasted money go and search for the real wastes from Sukleen (for over 20 years and ongoing) to the MEA/MEAS etc….

  14. Pascale said:

    Way to go, just please do it! and although I believe these people can corrupt the incorruptible, still want to wish you the best of luck cause you’ve got courage and you seem to have faith :)

  15. michel abou jalad said:

    i am a fan of FPM and GENERAL AOUN
    BUT ALL PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW THAT WE ARE PEOPLE THAT BELIEVE THAT WE SHOULD SUE EVERY SINGLE MAN WHO HAS DONE ANYTHING WHICH IS CONSIDERED WRONG EVEN THEE SMALLEST ONE AND WE FANS OF FPM ARE NOT WITH ANYBODY NO MATTER HOW CLOSE HE IS WHO DID ANY MISTAKE AND IF YOU CONSIDER THAT IT IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU MR. YASSER TO INTERROGATE MINISTER BASSIL . I THINK THE RIGHT THING TO DO IF YOU HAVE MANY THINGS TO ASK WAS TO SUE HIM BEFORE . THIS IS THE WAY YOU SHOULD DO ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE SURE OF YOUR INFOS . CLEAN PEOPLE AREN’T AFRAID OF BEING SUED NEITHER TO SUE ANYBODY.

    WE SHOULD BOTH HAVE THE SAME CONVICTION I HOPE SO ONE OF THOSE NEAR DAYS

  16. Anna said:

    THE DEEPEST IRONY

    QUOTING THE WIKIPEDIA (PRO-AMERICAN WEBSITE BUT STILL I HAVE TO GIVE AMERICAN CREDITS THEY KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE AND STILL SAY IT OPENELY THEY ARE S*****

    “Hariri was considered as the principal actor in the widespread corruption that plagued Lebanon during the Syrian occupation. His wealth grew from less than $1 billion when he was appointed prime minister in 1992, to over $16 billion when he died. The Company for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut’s Central District, known as Solidere, in which Hariri is the primary shareholder, expropriated most property in the central business district of Beirut, compensating each owner with shares in the company, were worth as little as 15% of the property’s value. That Hariri and his business associates profited immensely from this project was an open secret.[41][42]

    Hariri and his protégés were not the only beneficiaries of this spending spree. In order to secure support from militia chieftains, and pro-Syrian ideologues that Damascus had installed in the government, Hariri allowed kickbacks from public spending to enrich all major government figures. Contracts for the import of petroleum were awarded to the two sons of President Elias Hrawi.[41][42]

    As result of the growing criticism and popular discontent with Hariri’s policies, the government banned public demonstrations in 1994 and relied upon the Army to enforce the decree.[41][42] In return for a relatively free hand in economic matters, Hariri cooperated with Syria’s drive to consolidate its control over Lebanon. Under the guise of “regulating” the audiovisual media, the government placed control of all major television and radio stations in the hands of pro-Syrian elites. Supporters of Michel Aoun were also perpetually harassed and detained.[41][42]

    He is mainly credited with the widespread corruption that followed the war and the crippling damages done to the economy, with the public debt rising from $2.5 billion to over $40 billion and economic growth slowing from 8% to –1% during his time as prime minister.

    THANK YOU MR AKKAOUI :):):) BUT I AM SORRY YOU WILL LOOSE THE CASE ::)))
    YOU KNOW JUST LIKE BASSIL HAD HIS OWN PRIVATE AIRPLANE WHEN HE TRAVELED TO AUSTRALIA YOU KNOW :):) BUT GUESS WHAT HE DID NOT HAVE EVEN A PRIVATE CAR LOL MY UNCLE WAS HIS TAXI DRIVER IN A POOR CAR :)))

    LISTEN DUDE STOP LYING. TAKE MONEY FROM “THEM” IF YOU ARE IN NEED :) IT’S FINE BUT LEARN HOW TO TRICK THEM. :):) DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I MEAN MR AKKAOUI???

  17. albert said:

    It intrigues me how for example this article is talking about a specificic man and a specific case and some revert back on 14 Mars and the Hariri.
    Guys, everyone stole in this country.. including all of 14 and all of 8 and each single politician and Hariri ‘breast’ fed each and everyone of them.
    Why this hate from Aounist against Hariri (father) I truly cannot understand. If I remember well, you all walked Mars 14 2005 and the guy was dead already. It wasn’t him who made you turn to 8 because he was dead already and did nothing after..
    But this article is discussing Gebran. Let us stick to his case.
    1. The cheap internet was NOT done by Gebran. It is due to an international fiber link that connects france to india through the Mediterranean. So stop this bullshit that ANY lebanese did that. All they did was hook up to the cable and they were 1 year late.
    2. I dont see where power got better. We were promised that by summer 2013 we will have it 24/7. As a fact our generator bills are getting much higher and not lower as some want us to believe.
    3. Aoun said in 2007 or 2008 ‘give us the goverment and we will show what we are able to do’. They have it still and it requires no proof to state the shit they made us get to.
    Aoun an Co are but a bunch of liers who are fed by those people who believe every single word they say and do not waste their time comparing actual facts to their words and promises.
    Finally, I do hope your magazine can put Gebran in jail. It will be a great favor to lebanon and humanity.

  18. ELIE said:

    Millions of dollars are spent to find 1 evidence on him and nothing till now has been detected. So if you can do it for free, then your superman! Begin appreciating people who really work and not type!

  19. Michael said:

    If he stole he should be punished, clear. But the fact that, in 20 years, your magazine have missed the billions stolen by “others” which you clearly support, puts you, your motives and your honesty to serious question marks.

  20. Omar said:

    I moved to Lebanon after 20yrs abroad and have been noticing the huge gap between wealth and poverty. Corruption and lack of morales seem to be prevailing. Everybody seems to be frustrated but little they can do.
    So pleased to see the media (printed, visual) questioning politicians regardless of their background.

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