Trust in Lebanese financier shakes Hezbollah’s image

September 21, 2009

By Yara Bayoumy

The case of Salah Ezz el-Din, a Shi’ite Lebanese financier who has been accused of embezzlement and alleged to have defrauded Shi’ite investors, including Hezbollah officials, of hundreds of millions of dollars, has Lebanon in a stir.

The overall amount pales in comparison to Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, but in a community of little more than a million Shi’ites, it has meant that many have had their life-savings wiped out.

But what’s more shocking than the amount is the overwhelming trust that his investors still have in him. That is, no doubt, due to Hezbollah’s approval of him.

There are even some Hezbollah officials who invested with him, although the group’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has denied any direct links with Ezz el-Din.

Political sources say the investors, most of whom are from the Hezbollah bastions of southern Lebanon and Beirut’s southern suburbs, were so willing to part with their money because Hezbollah said Ezz el-Din was a man to be trusted.

Fouad Ajami, one of the investors, told Reuters: “To tell you the truth, people put their money with him because he was wearing the Hezbollah cloak, because he was close to Hezbollah and he duped people into thinking he was someone important in Hezbollah,” he said.

“They (investors) asked if he was trustworthy and they (Hezbollah) said he was, and they asked if they should put their money with him and (Hezbollah) said of course. Even those people in Hezbollah did not know anything about him,” Ajami said.

Certainly the saga has embarrassed Hezbollah, and Nasrallah has set up a crisis centre to deal with those who lost their money. He has not yet promised to provide compensation.

Now that the alleged pyramid scheme has come tumbling down, it begs the question: how could Hezbollah have been duped so easily?

The Ezz el-Din saga has also exposed Hezbollah in a new light. A “resistance” movement that emphasises the rewards of the after-life gained from “martyrdom”, it is disconcerting to some Lebanese to see several members of the movement so deeply involved in a get-rich-quickly scheme.

Certainly, this raises the question: To what extent will Hezbollah’s image be shaken by the Ezz el-Din saga?

7 comments

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“To what extent will Hezbollah’s image be shaken by the Ezz el-Din saga?”

Is that even quantifiable or are you just encouraging speculation?

1. Its not a saga..
2. The facts are not yet known

“The Ezz el-Din saga has also exposed Hezbollah in a new light.”
Who’s opinion is this, written as fact?
This is not journalism..
Did the Madoff “saga” expose its high profile investors and their affiliations in a new light??

“The overall amount pales in comparison to Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme” – “how could Hezbollah have been duped so easily?”
Probably the same way anyone is by a professional con-artist…

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

What image could Hezbollah have that would require further shaking.
Its current one and thus so far – have only been of mischief, mayhem, and killings.

Posted by Joyce | Report as abusive

They have a great image to their people, not people like you of course.

Oh by the way the EXACT same thing just happened to the US democrats in the sum of around $290 million fraud by party fundraiser Hassan Nemazee. Now read that article and compare it to how this one is written.. very different slant

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

1. This is a saga. Why wouldn’t it be?
2. The facts aren’t known? This guy stole the life savings from the same people he was suppose to be helping. Are you suggesting this is a made up conspiracy?

Hizbollah is the political might as well as the moral authority in southern Lebenon. So when they endorse Ezz el-Din, they absolutely bear some responsibility for the lost savings. Responsibility is the ball and chain that comes with authority.

This is why mixing religion with politics with business is a recipe for disaster.

Funny how corruption doesn’t have a creed or color or race. It’s a universal language.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

1. look it up in the dictionary.. doesn’t qualify
2. Are we reading the same article? Why was he “supposed” to be helping them? He was not hezbollah, he was a con-man that had EVERYONE fooled, the extent to which he did and was affiliated with hezbollah and the details of what happened to all the money are still UNKNOWN..
There is a difference between reading something and proving something.

Of course they bear some responsibility, but not as much as the people giving their money away and ultimately the con-man himself. Responsibility is the same for everyone and is not even relevant to mixing business, politics and religion, which are impossible to separate.

What are you talking about corruption for? There isn’t even a shred of proof contrary to Hezbollah’s squeaky clean reputation for honesty and lack of corruption that would suggest they knew anything of the con-man’s plans.

A prime example of what a story like this can induce in people.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

Saga – narrative of achievements and events in the history of a personage, family, etc.

If Hezbollah had no idea what he was doing, then they shouldn’t have told people that he was trustworthy. They vouched for this guy, and in southern Lebanon if Hezbollah endorses someone like this, the people will trust him and give him their life savings.

Whether or not they were involved or how involved they were remains to be seen, but is not really the point. By backing away and saying “we didn’t know, not our fault” they are shunning their responsibility as the authority in the region.

Saying Hezbollah bears no responsibility for these people losing their money is like the S.E.C. saying bears no responsibility for Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme going on as long as it did.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

you’re just reinventing the argument now..
Glad you looked up the word saga though I found the rest of your edited definition:
Saga
1. A MEDIEVAL ICELANDIC OR NORSE PROSE narrative of achievements and events in the history of a personage, family, etc.

2. Any narrative or legend of heroic exploits.

3. Also called saga novel. a form of the novel in which the members or generations of a family or social group are chronicled in a long and leisurely narrative.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

[...] [12] Yara Bayoumy, “Trust in Lebanese Financier Shakes Hezbollah’s Image,” Reuters, September 21, 2009, http://blogs.reuters.com. [...]

[...] [12] Yara Bayoumy, “Trust in Lebanese Financier Shakes Hezbollah’s Image,” Reuters, September 21, 2009, http://blogs.reuters.com. [...]