in the workings of the shadow economy


Posted 22nd November 2019 at 14h24, updated at 06:10

Wall of free expression during anti-government protests in downtown Beirut (Lebanon), October 27
Wall of free expression during anti-government protests in downtown Beirut (Lebanon), October 27 RAFAEL YAGHOBZADEH

Its seven floors guard the golden sand of Ramlet El-Baïda, the great beach of southern Beirut. From its terrace, at sunset, one would think to touch the scintillating waves of the Mediterranean. Just by name, promise of luxury, calm and happiness, the Eden Bay Hotel is a dream.

But the postcard has a price. The happiness of the customers of the five-star establishment, opened at the end of June, is the misfortune of the regulars of Ramlet El-Baïda, last public beach of the Lebanese capital. Rare piece of coastline still accessible to the inhabitants of the poor districts, this band of sand of one kilometer is nibbled by the private interests. And through corruption, one of the main triggers of the anti-system revolt that broke out in mid-October and pushed Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign.

"Fraudulent privatization of the Lebanese coast"

How did the promoter of Eden Bay get the right to build on the sand, about ten meters from the shore, when the law prohibits the pouring of concrete in this area? A report signed by the president of the order of engineers, identifying no less than eight violations of the building code, was sent in 2017 to President Michel Aoun. Without results. The civil society mobilized, multiplied the demonstrations in front of the building site. The authorities have not blinked.

The owner of the hotel, the businessman Wissam Achour, who is said to be close to the Hariri family and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, has the ear of the municipality. According to Levant trade, a local economic magazine, this one accepted, a few days before the inauguration of the palace, to divert a sewer pipe pouring under its windows. The Beirut families who have bathed there for years have not been treated to such delicacy.

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At the beginning of November, while the city center resounded with songs and slogans hostile to the ruling class, a hundred demonstrators took the road to Eden Bay. "We were blocked by police officers, who are almost more numerous than us, says Ali Darwich, the director of Green Line, a conservation NGO. Wissam Achour has high placed protectors. His hotel is the symbol of the fraudulent privatization of the Lebanese coast. If the state decided one day to take action, it could reap a $ 2 billion fine. "

The oldest profession in the world

Corruption is the other oldest profession in the world. But it is not practiced everywhere in the same way. There is the high-flying malversation, the white-collar entourloupe, carried out with a large backing of opaque assemblies in the secret of a study of a lawyer or a ministerial cabinet. There is the good old slut, the truandery barely concealed, smuggling and extortion, the two breasts of the mafia. And in the middle, there is the corruption of the round-of-leather, the interference of the state apparatus, with frauds, bribes and ghost jobs.


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