| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Calls urging Macron to freeze the political “mafia” assets in Lebanon

An open letter on Tuesday urged French President Emmanuel Macron to freeze the suspicious assets of Lebanese officials in France, with the aim of dismantling a “political and economic mafia” that has plunged Lebanon into crisis and misery.

Macron had called for a radical change in Lebanon after the devastating bombing of the Beirut port, expressing his anger at the absence of signs of change, at a time when the country is still captive to the political stalemate with the worsening of the economic, financial and living crisis.

Analysts said that sanctions such as an asset freeze may be the most effective way for Paris to put pressure on the political class in Lebanon, even though France has not yet publicly indicated its willingness to take such a measure.

The letter, signed by more than 100 Lebanese civil society figures and published in the French newspaper Le Monde, said that Macron should issue instructions “to implement the legal mechanism to freeze assets of questionable origin that are owned in France by Lebanese political and economic leaders.”

“The political and economic mafia is responsible for the misery, hunger and insecurity that many Lebanese suffer from,” she added.

The letter indicated that such a legal process should be based on the precedent of freezing illegal assets in France for some African leaders and former Syrian Vice President Rifat al-Assad.

The letter considered that “this widespread corruption has grossly contributed to enriching Lebanese political leaders” by emptying the treasury and fraudulently seizing aid sent after the civil war.

The letter was signed by doctors, lawyers, journalists and activists, including university professor Karim Emile Bitar, former Lebanese Minister of Culture, former United Nations envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, and resigned MP Paula Yacoubian.

The letter was prepared after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declared in March that “the time has come” to increase international pressure on Lebanon to form a government.

The Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun have so far been unable to agree on forming a new government despite the passage of several months, while Lebanon suffers the worst economic crisis in its modern history.

Since 2019, Lebanon has suffered a severe economic collapse, which has deepened with the catastrophic explosion of the Beirut port, which killed at least 200 people, injured more than 6,500 others, caused massive material damage and destroyed hundreds of buildings.

Since 2019, Lebanon has been witnessing continuous protests from time to time, despite the decline in its momentum due to the spread of the Corona virus, condemning the deterioration of the situation to the worst case, while the Lebanese accuse politicians of corruption and causing the crisis and demanding that they leave.