September 15, 2009

The Lebanese Bernie Madoff

My hosts here in Beirut have written and photographed the best English-language account thus far of Salah Ezzedine, the man being described as the Lebanese Bernie Madoff.

Although the scandal is not likely to affect Lebanon’s broader economy, it could create real problems in the Shiite community, where some major real estate owners and businessmen went into debt to finance their investments. The full extent of the alleged swindle remains unclear, but the judicial official said the amount lost appeared to be at least $700 million, and possibly more than $1 billion.

No kidding, this is a serious development. Shia in Lebanon invested in Ezzedine in part because he was perceived as being close to Hizballah. Now many of Hizballah's supporters have been hit hard by this swindler, and it doesn't just mean embarassment for Hizballah. It will also means a hit to their donations and finances.