In Lebanon, the extravagant gift of Saad Hariri to a South African model

Between 2013 and 2015, the Lebanese Prime Minister paid $ 16 million to a 20-year-old pin-up who claims to have had an affair with him.

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on January 31 at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut. ANWAR AMRO / AFP

In Lebanon, it's the scoop of the month and one of the topics that comes back on social networks. The New York Times revealed Monday, Sept. 30 that Saad Al-Hariri, the current prime minister of the country of Cedar, had poured between 2013 and 2015 the astronomical sum of 16 million dollars to a South African model who claims to have had an affair with him. The information in the American daily is based on documents from South African justice who investigated this extravagant story.

At the time, the forty-year-old Lebanese, married with three children, was out of politics. It was only in 2016 that he returned to the leadership of the Lebanese government, a position he had already held between 2009 and 2011. According to the New York Times, the very generous gift of Mr. Hariri, whose personal fortune was valued at $ 1.9 billion in 2013, did not break any laws.

But in a country whose economy is hard pressed, the fact that the head of government has offered such a nest egg to a 20-year-old pin-up named Candice van der Merwe, is stirring a mixture of anger, sarcasm and consideration. Relative to the average Lebanese salary, which is around $ 600, the sum represents more than 2,200 years of work …

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At the time of this presumed idyll, which would have been tied up in an ultralux hotel of the Seychelles, the conglomerate that Saad Al-Hariri directed, Saudi Oger, involved in the construction and the media, was going through its first difficulties. The politician and businessman inherited the empire on the death of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, assassinated in 2005, who had enriched himself by becoming the appointed builder of the Saudi royal family, the time of the kings Fahd and Abdallah.

"They want to strangle Hariri"

In 2013 in particular, the Hariri group closed the news channel Future News, a harbinger of the collapse of its media branch, which also included a daily newspaper and a general-interest television. "The chain owes me money today, says a former journalist of Future News. All the people who were with me are extremely shocked by this donation case. They want to strangle Hariri. "


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