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Former Lebanese PM Questioned about $11 Billion Spending

Former Lebanese PM Questioned about $11 Billion Spending

Thursday, 7 November, 2019 - 07:15
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora gestures at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was questioned by a state prosecutor on Thursday over how $11 billion in state funds was spent while he was in power.

His office issued a statement saying the spending was entirely legal.

It was the first time a former prime minister in Lebanon had been summoned for such questioning, and it follows protests against a ruling elite that is widely accused of state corruption.

Opponents of Siniora, who was prime minister from 2005 until 2008 and had two spells as finance minister, say $11 billion in government funds was unaccounted for while he was in power.

But in its statement, Siniora’s office said he had explained to the financial public prosecutor where the money was spent and that is was used in meeting state needs.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside Siniora’s home in Beirut and outside his office in the southern city of Sidon, chanting and waving Lebanese flags, Reuters television reported.

“The theater of simply summoning him is not enough. We want the money, we want our children’s money and we will not leave the streets until we get it back,” said Majid, a protester in Sidon.

The National News Agency (NNA) said that Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim had called on Siniora to answer questions on the money spent outside state budgets between 2005 and 2009.

But in later remarks to the NNA, Public Prosecutor at the Court of Cassation Ghassan Oweidat said that the session had been postponed for a week because of Ibrahim's failure to inform Siniora of the original hearing in time. The November 14 hearing will be held at the Court of Cassation.

Siniora told Asharq Al-Awsat that he would not accept Ibrahim’s request.

At a news conference in March, the former prime minister said that the money “was all spent based on the principle and the provisions of the Constitution and the financial laws.”

He explained that the Lebanese State’s needs had exceeded the LL10 trillion budget set in 2005, leading the government to resort to extra-budgetary spending to cover expenses such as public debt, oil prices and wages.

While he emphasized that he was under the law, Siniora noted: “I have full confidence that what I did was for the benefit of Lebanon and the Lebanese.”

“I have already submitted a draft-law to subject the state accounts to auditing in 2006, but the bill has not been adopted by the Parliament,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

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