Lebanese billionaire Hajj Salah Ezzidine has declared himself bankrupt, leaving thousands of citizens unemployed in Beyrouth and throughout Lebanon.
The daily As-Safir on Monday said the job loss of these people was estimated at millions of dollars.
It said Ezzidine, from Maaroub near the southern port city of Tyre, is director of Dar al-Hadi for publication and owner of al-Hadi television station for children.
Update (Sept 4, 09): Salah Ezzedine has been dubbed the “Bernard Madoff” of Lebanon, he was arrested earlier this week when he filed for bankruptcy.
Reports surfaced that he had squandered more than 1.5 billion dollars (1.05 billion euros) of his clients’ money.
Mohammed al-Duheini, mayor of the southern town of Toura, said on Friday that “around 250 residents from my town placed their money in the hands of Salah Ezzedine, and he would give them interest rates that topped 25 percent”.
“He managed to win the trust of the Shiites of south Lebanon and handled a lot of their money,” he told AFP.
Local papers have reported that Ezzedine offered interest rates as high as 60 percent and that part of his clientele was from the oil-rich Gulf.
But prosecutor Said Mirza said there were no official figures as yet on Ezzedine’s finances, and that the bankruptcy claim had yet to be verified. “We are still gathering information,” he told AFP.
While Ezzedine’s own political beliefs are unclear, most of his clients were supporters of militant group Hezbollah, Duheini says.
Hezbollah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan was among the first to file a complaint against Ezzedine over a bounced cheque, according to the local media.
“What people heard about him was that he is protected by Hezbollah and is an honest man who runs charities,” Duheini said.
“They looked to him as the saviour of the south and its people, as the protector of the Shiites’ finances.”
Under Lebanon’s banking secrecy law, banks cannot reveal their clients’ names, assets or holdings except in cases of bankruptcy or if granted written authorisation by the client.