Lebanon protests: All the latest updates - Hariri to resign

Embattled Prime Minister Saad Hariri addresses nation as Hezbollah supporters ransack main protest in Beirut.

Hezbollah tries to disrupt main protest. (RightClick/View to enlarge)

By AJ - 29. October 2019

Lebanon has been rocked by nearly two weeks of mass protests against the country's ruling elite.

Angry at what they describe as years of official corruption and economic mismanagement, the protesters have been demanding the government's resignation, holding rallies in public squares and promoting a civil disobedience campaign that includes blocking main thoroughfares.

As scuffles broke out in the capital, Beirut, embattled Prime Minister Saad Hariri was due to address the nation on Tuesday.

Here are all the latest updates:

PM Hariri submits resignation

In a televised speech, Hariri said he he has reached a "dead end" and will submit his resignation to President Michel Aoun in response to 13 days of anti-government protests.

"It has become necessary for us to make a great shock to fix the crisis. I am going to the Baabda Palace to give my resignation," Hariri said.

Read more here.

Lebanon banks to remain shut on Wednesday

Lebanese banks will remain shut on Wednesday amid ongoing unrest, the country's banking association said.

The Association of Lebanese Banks said banks were keen to ensure pubic and private sector workers would receive their salaries.

Hariri 'likely to resign Tuesday'

Hariri was expected to deliver an address at 4pm  local time (14:00 GMT), an official Twitter account said

Two official sources told Reuters news agency that Hariri was likely to resign.

The report could not be independently verified.

Hezbollah supporters ransack Beirut protest site

People believed to be Hezbollah supporters attacked and ransacked the main anti-government protest site in the Lebanese capital, tearing down tents and smashing chairs.

The men, some of them wielding sticks, began scuffling with protesters who were blocking roads in the capital. Some of the men chanted slogans praising Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hezbollah group, who has criticised the anti-government protests.

Groups of men could be seen massing near main protest sites as Lebanese security forces moved quickly to try to separate them from the protesters.

The protesters could be seen taking up metal poles and wooden batons.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

More:

 

Lebanon protests enter 10th day with no end in sight, army tries to open roads

October 26, 2019

Lebanese demonstrators gather at Martyrs' Square and Riad Al Solh Square during an anti-government protest against dire economic conditions and new tax regulations on messaging services like Whatsapp, in Beirut, Lebanon on 19 October 2019. [ Mahmut Geldi - Anadolu Agency ]

Lebanese demonstrators gather at Martyrs' Square and Riad Al Solh Square during an anti-government protest against dire economic conditions and new tax regulations on messaging services like Whatsapp, in Beirut, Lebanon on 19 October 2019. [ Mahmut Geldi - Anadolu Agency ]

Protesters trickled back on to the streets across Lebanon on Saturday, despite army efforts to unblock roads, with no end in sight to a crisis that has crippled the country for 10 days, Reuters reports.

A military statement said army and security commanders met to plan ways to re-open main arteries to get traffic flowing again while “safeguarding the safety of protesters”. People have closed routes with barriers and sit-ins as part of a wave of unprecedented protests demanding the government resigns.

Lebanon has been swept by 10 days of protests against a political class accused of corruption, mismanagement of state finances and pushing the country towards an economic collapse unseen since the 1975-90 civil war.

Banks, schools, and many businesses have shut their doors.

“We won’t leave the streets because this is the only card that people can pressure with,” Yehya al-Tannir, an actor protesting at a makeshift barricade on a main bridge in the capital Beirut. “We won’t leave until our demands are met.”

Troops and riot police deployed to main roads across Lebanon on Saturday.

The forces re-opened some roads for a few hours on Saturday morning before people gathered again. On the bridge in Beirut, riot police scuffled with protesters who were sitting on the ground to keep it closed.

Protesters have resisted efforts earlier this week to open some roads, including along a main highway.

Banks will stay closed until life returns to normal and will pay month-end salaries through ATMs, the Association of Banks in Lebanon has said.

It has held crisis meetings in recent days in search of a way to reopen banks amid growing fears that a rush on them could deplete dwindling foreign currency deposits.

EMERGENCY REFORMS

The protests have continued to grip Lebanon despite the government announcing an emergency reform package this week that failed to defuse anger. It has also yet to reassure foreign donors to unlock the billions in badly needed aid they have pledged.

Lebanon has one of the world’s highest levels of government debt as a share of economic output.

The size and geographic reach of the protests have been extraordinary in a country where political movements have long been divided along sectarian lines and struggle to draw nationwide appeal.

On Saturday, the first day of Lebanon’s weekend, people milled around to patriotic music, waving Lebanese flags and banners in central Beirut.

In the southern coastal city of Saida, some shops opened their doors after days of closure.

“Shopkeepers are opening up to see if they can get things moving. The end of the month is near, people have rents to pay,” said protester Hoda Hafez. “But in the end, they will all take part and come down to the (protest) square.”

The leader of Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah movement, backed by Iran, warned on Friday against a power vacuum and urged followers to stay away from the protests after they confronted demonstrators in central Beirut.

 

READ: Saudi newspaper: Hariri government to resign soon 

A better Beirut? From street clean-ups to revived buildings, protests spur city innovation 

 

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Comment by Ali Chaib:

The leaderless uprising continues in Lebanon as hundreds of thousands continue to protest across major cities for the second consecutive week.

The citizens of Lebanon are finally waking up and revolting against the deeply rotten sectarian government. They want ALL current politicians to disappear. Some protesters are even demanding these politicians be thrown out of the country entirely!

The uprising erupted after the corrupt government announced plans for new taxes on VoIP used by apps like WhatsApp which allows people to call each other over the internet bypassing the two local monopolies that control all telecom services.

After witnessing the mass outrage, the corrupt government scrapped the proposed tax within hours, but that didn't stop the protesters who are now demanding the political prostitutes (politicians) to be prosecuted for years of corruption.

They're demanding the dismemberment of the rotten sectarian government in favor of a leaderless government where decision-making is in the hands of ALL citizens.

The Lebanese uprising is part of a larger global awakening in the consciousness of citizens around the globe from hashtag#Chile to hashtag#France to hashtag#HongKong to hashtag#Barcelona to the hashtag#Netherlands to hashtag#Ecuador to hashtag#Iraq to hashtag#Syria to hashtag#Lebanon to hashtag#Egypt to hashtag#Sudan to hashtag#Haiti.

 

 

Here is how the MainStreamMedia (first the New York Times) tried to damage the reputation of PM Saad Hariri - using a perfectly private and personal affair:

Who is Candice van der Merwe? Saad Hariri Bikini Model Mistress; Bio, Wiki, Age, Father, South Africa, Instagram, $ 16m Gift from Lebanon PM

Candice van der Merwe, a Bikini Model Mistress received more than $ 16 from Lebanon’s prime minister

Who is Candice van der Merwe? Saad Hariri Bikini Model Mistress; Bio, Wiki, Age, South Africa, Instagram, $ 16m Gift from Lebanon PM
Who is Candice van der Merwe? Saad Hariri Bikini Model Mistress; Bio, Wiki, Age, South Africa, Instagram, $ 16m Gift from Lebanon PM

Candice van der Merwe Bio, Wiki

Candice van der Merwe is a 25-year-old South African Bikini model, an energy drink saleswoman and an escort who is in the spotlight for receiving more than  $ 16m from Lebanon’s prime minister,  Saad Hariri with whom he was in a romantic relationship, as per the New York Times.

Candice van der Merwe Father

Van der Merwe father is businessman Gary Van der Merwe, who was in repeated court battles with the tax authorities when she received the money from Lebanon’s prime minister leading to South African tax authorities believing the money received by Van der Merwe was her father’s.

Candice van der Merwe &  Saad Hariri 

Candice van der Merwe and the Lebanon prime minister met at a luxury resort which she identified as The Plantation club and resort in Seychelles off the coast of Africa in 2012. Van der Merwe was then 20 years old while the prime minister who is currently 49 was 44 years old.

Van der Merwe claims the trip was fully sponsored and she was asked to “lend a sense of glamour and exclusivity.” the Guardian reported. When models arrived at the resort, their passports were taken away and they were not allowed to take photos. City Press reported that Van der Merwe flew in the economy class for the first two trips to Seychelles but thereafter flew business or first class.

In May of 2013, Van der Merwe received $15,299,965 in her bank account thanks to a money transfer from Hariri. In an email to Hariri obtained by the New York Times, Van der Merwe wrote “Love you Saad” with her banking details, adding that she intends to buy some properties with the money.

Candice van der Merwe Bikini Model

Candice van der Merwe Bikini Model

In 2013, she was gifted two cars worth some $250,000, apparently by Mr. Hariri. Two months later, the transfer of more than $15m landed in her account. This lead to the South African tax authorities (SARS) suspecting the money might have been taxable income. The ensuing court proceedings led to Ms. Van der Merwe identifying Mr. Hariri as the benefactor. SARS believed the donation was money belonging to her father, businessman Gary Van der Merwe, who was in repeated court battles with the tax authorities.

The calendar model later received another $1 million from her powerful married boyfriend after she ran into legal trouble with tax authorities over the massive initial lump-sum “gift.”

Details of the case were first reported in 2018 in South Africa, but they appear to have not been picked up by the international media until now. Van der Merwe blamed SARs for ending her relationship with Hariri, which she said she could have still derived financial benefits.

Lebanese pol Saad Hariri is the father of three and has been married for about two decades. Hariri was not prime minister at the time of the money transfers, and there is no indication he used any money except his own, the report said.

Saad Hariri and Candice van der Merwe
Saad Hariri and Candice van der Merwe

Who is Saad Hariri? His Background & Net Worth

Sadd Hariri was born on April 18th, 1970. He is a Lebanese politician who has been the Prime Minister of Lebanon since December 2016. was also the Prime Minister from November 2009 to June 2011. He is the second son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005. Hariri has also been the leader of the Future Movement party since 2005.

He is the son of Rafic Hariri and his first wife Nidal Bustani, an Iraqi. He graduated in 1992 from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University with a major in business administration. He then returned to Saudi Arabia where he managed part of his father’s business in Riyadh until his father’s assassination in 2005.

He married Lara Al Azem in 1998, the daughter of Bashir Al Azem, an influential and wealthy Syrian construction magnate. They have three children: Houssam (born 1999), Loulwa (born 2001), and Abdulaziz (born 2005).

The PM  has an estimated net worth in 2018 was $1.5 billion as per Forbes. He inherited his family’s construction business from his father, former Lebanon Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005.

News of Saad Hariri’s affair — which van der Merwe told the court has since ended — comes at a particularly bad time for the PM. The family’s business conglomerate is struggling, along with the country’s economy. Hariri has warned that his government could soon declare an “economic state of emergency” amid street protests.

Model Candice van der Merwe's R200m gift was from Lebanon's prime minister: Report

BY STAFF REPORTER AND REUTERS - 02 October 2019 - 13:11

MODEL CITIZEN International swimwear model Candice van der Merwe at a previous appearance at the Cape Town High Court in a clash with SARS.

MODEL CITIZEN International swimwear model Candice van der Merwe at a previous appearance at the Cape Town High Court in a clash with SARS. 
Image: Picture DAVID HARRISON The Times

South African model Candice van der Merwe was reportedly gifted $16m (about R245m) from the prime minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri after they met for a romantic getaway in the Seychelles according to the New York Times which saw the court documents.

Sowetan has previously reported that the model has been facing legal issues since she was flagged by Sars for the deposit which at the time amounted to R200m which she had claimed was from an "unknown Arab admirer".

Hariri was not in office at the time of the alleged affair and monetary transfer.

In 2018, City Press reported that Van der Merwe planned to sue finance minister Tito Mboweni for R1bn over "damages to her reputation". According to the publication she alleged that she was harassed over the donation.

Hariri, who is married, has an estimated $1.9bn net worth. However, according to the New York Times, his businesses have recently faced economic turmoil.  

Although Hariri did not comment on his relationship with Van der Merwe he told the New York Times that the "negative" reports about him would not deter his work as prime minister.

“Whatever the campaigns they launch against me and whatever they say, write or do, I will continue to work,” he said on Tuesday. “It is true that we [Lebanon] are going through a difficult economic situation and therefore we have to take bold decisions. Every time we make an accomplishment, someone criticises it.”

Meanwhile, according to Reuters protests have flared up in Lebanon due to the worsening economic conditions.

Protesters blocked several main roads in the Lebanese capital, some setting tyres and rubbish bins on fire, as several hundred people gathered in the heart of the city on Sunday to protest against corruption and deteriorating economic conditions.

Demonstrators carrying signs and flags marched along a main road, chanting "Down with capitalism" and "Leave!" amid heightened security in the area, while others stood outside parliament.

 

Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon in Beirut in August. He gave more than $16 million to a South African model who said they had a relationship.Credit...Bilal Hussein/Associated Press

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The prime minister of Lebanon gave more than $16 million to a South African bikini model who said they had a romantic relationship after they met at a luxury resort in the Seychelles, according to South African court documents obtained by The New York Times.

The prime minister, Saad Hariri, was not in office when he sent the money starting in 2013, and the transfer does not appear to have violated any Lebanese or South African laws.

But the revelation in a South African court case this year of the extravagant gifts to a younger model comes during a difficult period for Mr. Hariri, the top Sunni Muslim politician in Lebanon and an American ally.

His business and political empires have fallen on hard times, depriving many employees of their pay. His family’s construction conglomerate, Saudi Oger, ceased operations in 2017, and his media outlets have struggled to pay salaries.

A looming financial crisis in Lebanon has set off antigovernment protests. This month, Mr. Hariri said the Lebanese government would declare an “economic state of emergency” and push through austerity measures.

Mr. Hariri did not respond to questions sent to his media team about his relationship with the model, Candice van der Merwe, or any gifts to her.

[The day after this article was published, Mr. Hariri said that negative news reports would not interrupt his work.

[“Whatever the campaigns they launch against me and whatever they say, write or do, I will continue to work,” he said Tuesday in comments released by his office. “It is true that we are going through a difficult economic situation and therefore we have to take bold decisions. Every time we make an accomplishment, someone criticizes it.”

[He did not specifically mention Ms. van der Merwe or his gifts to her.]

The gifts have no clear tie to Lebanon’s current economic woes and Mr. Hariri, a married father of three, was sufficiently wealthy to have made the payments himself. Forbes magazine estimated his net worth in 2013 at $1.9 billion, thanks largely to business interests he inherited after his father, Rafik Hariri, who also served as prime minister, was assassinated in Beirut in 2005.

Since then, the younger Hariri has remained one of Lebanon’s best known political figures. He makes frequent state visits to Paris, Washington and Riyadh and favors pro-Western policies, but heads a power-sharing government that includes Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and political party backed by Iran.

His bank transfers to Ms. van der Merwe were made between his two terms as prime minister, but while he was the head of his political party, the Future Movement. He was 43 at the time of the first transfer, in 2013. He was then running family businesses in construction and other domains and living in France and Saudi Arabia.

Ms. van der Merwe was 20 years old. She had appeared in energy drink promotions and swimwear calendars, but her reported annual income had never exceeded $5,400.

In a promotional interview in a skimpy bikini conducted in conjunction with the publication of a swimsuit calendar in 2011, she said her interests included listening to Jack Johnson and Celine Dion, riding Jet Skis and flying helicopters with her father.

Then in May 2013, her assets suddenly soared, thanks to a transfer of $15,299,965 from a Lebanese bank.

“Lady luck, it would seem, suddenly smiled on the applicant,” a South African judge wrote in 2015.

The transfer would likely have remained secret had the large sum not raised suspicions among the South African financial and tax authorities, who investigated and deemed it taxable income.

Ms. van der Merwe insisted the money was a gift, and not taxable according to South African law. In subsequent court cases, she argued the money had been given to her without conditions and identified her benefactor as Mr. Hariri.

Mr. Hariri, second from left, with his wife Lara, their son Hussam, left, and President Emmanuel Macron of France in Paris in 2017.Credit...Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

“Love you my Saad :),” Ms. van der Merwe wrote in an email to Mr. Hariri in which she provided her bank account details so he could transfer the money, telling him it was so she could buy property.

The money landed in her account shortly afterward.

The New York Times was unable to reach Ms. van der Merwe, but two of her previous lawyers, her current lawyer, and her father, who has represented her in tax court, declined to comment and to make her available for an interview.

In an affidavit cited in the court documents, Ms. van der Merwe said she had been recruited at age 19 to travel to an exclusive resort in the Seychelles Islands called The Plantation Club that was “frequented by some of the richest private individuals in the world,” including billionaires “for whom money is no object.”

At this “playground of the super wealthy,” she said, “it is the norm for lavish parties and events to be held” and models were flown in “to lend a sense of glamour and exclusivity.” The models’ passports were taken when they arrived and they were forbidden from taking photos.

Ms. van der Merwe spent four days at the resort in 2012, she said, and connected with people she met because of her “healthy lifestyle” and other qualities.

“I have also been told that I have a very engaging personality,” she said.

Other trips followed. On her first two, she flew economy class. Later, she was upgraded to first or business class.

During a trip in March 2013, she said, she told friends that her “dream car” was the Audi R8. After she returned home, she had an accident that totaled her car and cracked her cellphone screen.

A car dealer soon called her to pick up a new Audi R8 Spyder, which had been paid for and registered in her name. She also received two new cellphones, including one with international roaming, and a Land Rover Evoque.

The two vehicles were worth more than $250,000, a sum that was added to her tax bill. Her lawyers wrote in 2015 that they were gifts from the same “extremely well-to-do Middle Eastern gentleman” who sent her the money.

When government investigators asked about the $15 million transfer, a bank official said that “the sender and beneficiary are boyfriend/girlfriend and are currently together in the Seychelles.”

Ms. van der Merwe bought properties worth more than $10 million, including a house in Cape Town’s upscale Fresnaye neighborhood with an outdoor swimming pool and commanding ocean views. She also lent $2.7 million to a real estate company her father was involved with and made other transactions, leaving $537,000 in her account, she said.

The tax authorities considered her claim that the money was a gift implausible and suspected the funds had been for her father, Gary van der Merwe, a businessman who had fought repeated court battles with the tax authorities over his own business dealings. The authorities levied income tax on the sum, froze Ms. van der Merwe’s assets and appointed a curator to oversee them until the matter was settled.

So Mr. Hariri stepped in again, sending Ms. van der Merwe an additional $1 million to help cover her legal and living expenses, according to court documents.

In correspondence with the tax authorities, Ms. van der Merwe’s lawyers acknowledged it was hard to believe that “such largess was bestowed on a young girl” by someone with whom she had “a casual relationship.” But Ms. van der Merwe insisted the money and cars were gifts for her personal use with no conditions.

She reached a settlement with the tax authorities in 2016, which she appealed last year. A judge dismissed that case this month.

In January, she sued government officials for $65 million in damages she attributed to the tax authorities’ pursuit of her. These documents made Mr. Hariri’s role in the case public this year.

In the suit, she argues that she had to sell the house because the asset freeze prevented her from paying for its upkeep. She also says the court cases and related publicity had caused irreparable damage to her career and severed her link to Mr. Hariri.

“The plaintiff’s relationship with Mr. Hariri was terminated, which resulted in the loss of financial benefits that would have accrued to her from the relationship if it had been allowed to persist without outside interference,” the suit says.

A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 7 of the New York edition with the headline: Lebanon’s Leader Gave Bikini Model $16 Million.

Lebanon’s Hariri said to have given $16m to South Africa model

The allegations date back to 2013 and are unconnected to anti-government protests taking place in Lebanon now

October 1, 2019

The Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, is alleged to have given more than $16 million to a bikini model following their meeting at a luxury resort in the Seychelles in 2013, South African court documents obtained by the New York Times have revealed. Candice van der Merwe was aged 20 when she met the then 43-year-old, who was not Prime Minister at the time.

Hariri was running his family business and living in both France and Saudi Arabia when he met the South African model. He is said to have used his own money to make payments to Ms van der Merwe. There is no suggestion that Lebanese government money was involved. The married father of three has not broken any Lebanese or South African laws with the money transfers as he was not in office during the period of the relationship.

Van der Merwe starred in various energy drink commercials and swimwear calendars in South Africa, and had an annual income of barely more than $5,400 prior to the bank transfer from Hariri. Hence, when a total of $15,299,965 was suddenly transferred into her account from a Lebanese bank, the South African authorities grew suspicious after classing it as taxable income. She insisted that the money was sent as a gift and was therefore not taxable under South African law. In the ensuing court hearings, her lawyers presented her benefactor as an “extremely well-to-do Middle Eastern gentleman.”

READ: Protests over deteriorating economic conditions

The money sent by Hariri enabled the model to buy property worth around $10 million while receiving further gifts, including two cars worth over $250,000 as well as luxury watches. While she and her father – who has been involved in legal battles over tax himself – were embroiled in the court cases, Hariri sent another $1 million to van der Merwe to cover her legal costs after her assets were frozen by the court. His identity was only revealed now that court documents have been made public.

Hariri’s net worth at the beginning of the transfers in 2013 amounted to $1.9 billion, due largely to the business interests and assets he inherited from his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in Beirut in 2005.

Despite the transfers not violating any law, the revelation comes at a difficult and complex time for Hariri, Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim politician. He announced only this month that the Lebanese government would declare an economic state of emergency. Moreover, his business and political empires have fallen on difficult times, resulting in his family’s construction conglomerate, Saudi Oger, ceasing its operations in 2017, while the media outlets he owns are allegedly struggling to pay salaries to their employees.

Lebanese prime minister paid $16 million to South African bikini model over Seychelles 'affair'

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave a South African bikini model nearly $16 million US dollars after meeting her on holiday, it emerged on Monday, as Lebanon faces violent protests over a burgeoning economic crisis.

Candice van der Merwe met Mr Hariri at a private resort in the Seychelles in 2013 when she was 20. The married father-of-three, who is Lebanon’s most powerful Sunni politician, was 43.

When asked why Mr Hariri gave her the money, she responded that they had begun a romantic relationship. “I have also been told I have a very engaging personality,” she said, in court documents obtained by The New York Times.

The gift would have remained secret were it not for South African tax authorities, who froze Ms van der Merwe’s assets, asking her to explain the change in her fortunes.

She filed suit against them for $65 million in damages, alleging that the hold on her accounts forced her to sell the property she had bought with Mr Hariri’s gift, while the related publicity severed her connection with the Prime Minister.

The court records filed as a result put the details into the public domain. As Mr Hariri gave Ms van der Merwe the money between his two terms as Prime Minister, while not in office, he does not appear to have broken any Lebanese or South African laws.

There are no allegations that the money was linked to public funds, and Mr Hariri, whose personal wealth was estimated at $1.5bn US by Forbes magazine in 2018, is clearly wealthy enough to have sent the transactions from his private accounts.

Staff at Hariri-owned English-language newspaper The Daily Star say they have not been paid their salaries in nearly four months.

Several have left as a result, leaving the publication severely understaffed.

The news of Mr Hariri’s gift came as Moody’s credit rating agency announced it has placed Lebanon’s already low credit rating “under review for a downgrade.”

On Sunday protests against the failing economy and inadequate infrastructure turned violent in the capital Beirut, as protesters blocked roads and set fire to tires.  

Mr Hariri has not responded to the reports.