Lebanon bank sues ex-Syrian intelligence boss for fraud

BEIRUT – The head of Lebanon’s Al-Madina Bank, which collapsed two years ago in one of the country’s biggest banking scandals, has sued the former Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon for alleged embezzlement.

Al-Madina president Adnan Abu Ayyash accuses General Rustom Ghazaleh and three brothers of spiriting away 72 million dollars from the bank between 2000 and 2003, his lawyer Jean Azzi told AFP Thursday.

Ghazaleh headed the much-feared Syrian intelligence which left Lebanon last month as part of a troop withdrawal that ended Damascus’s 29-year military and political grip on its smaller neighbour.

The Central Bank of Lebanon appointed an administrator to run the privately-owned Al-Madina in July 2004 after finding a 1.2 billion dollar hole in its accounts, the worst financial scandal in the country in three decades.

The bank is also facing a money-laundering probe. Unconfirmed press reports said the bank was used for the money-laundering of several trillion dollars by the Russian mafia, Iraqi state funds and Saudi Islamic associations.

Abu Ayyash has also accused a former official with the bank, Rana Qoleilat, of involvement in the alleged embezzlement.

Qoleilat, who played a major role in running the bank, is under investigation for falsifying documents and embezzling tens of millions of dollars through bad checks.

She was arrested last year but released on bail in April on the eve of the Syrian pullout from Lebanon.

Abu Ayyash’s brother, Ibrahim, a co-owner of the bank, was arrested along with Qoleilat accused of embezzlement and abuse of trust and is still being detained in jail.

Press reports said Syrian and Lebanese politicians had benefited from Qoleilat’s “generosity.”