According to a judicial official, the Lebanese judiciary is examining the theft of $318,000 from the country’s embassy in Ukraine, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is attempting to decrease the costs of its missions in light of the economic crisis.
Since September, suspicions of embezzlement and theft have surfaced, and the Lebanese judiciary launched investigations on Monday in this regard, according to which Ambassador Ali Daher, who was prevented from leaving the embassy, was interrogated several times.
The judicial official close to the case said that “the incident affected the embassy’s funds collected from passport renewal fees for children of the Lebanese community residing in Ukraine, marriage certificates’ fees, and other documents.”
He pointed out that “preliminary estimates showed that the value of the embezzled funds amounted to 318 thousand US dollars.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the ambassador and his assistant were summoned to Beirut.
According to the same source, the assistant was out of sight following the first interrogation session, after which the Public Prosecution Office issued a “report of investigation against the assistant, and a decision to prevent him from traveling with his Ukrainian wife.”
According to preliminary investigations, it was found that the assistant was depositing money in his personal account in a Ukrainian bank, while sending a letter to the Ministry informing it of transferring the money to its account.
According to the source, “the statements of the ambassador and his assistant in front of the investigators contradicted each other.” The official explained that the ministry “did not check these transfers, nor did it inform the embassy that the money was not really deposited in its account in Lebanon.”
The investigation is also considering suspicions about the actual value of the ambassador’s house rent in Kiev. A diplomatic source in Beirut confirmed to AFP that “there are ongoing judicial investigations regarding a financial case at the Ukrainian embassy,” and indicated that work was essentially suspended at the embassy, following the start of the war in Ukraine.
In light of Lebanon’s economic collapse since fall 2019, the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs proposed last year to halt the functioning of 17 embassies across the world in order to save costs, but the government did not make a final decision in this regard.
“Now, expenses and staff are being decreased to alleviate the burden as much as possible,” the diplomatic source stated.
The economic collapse affected governmental institutions, whose employees’ pay have been drastically reduced as a result of the Lebanese pound losing 98% of its value against US dollar.