Hizbullah denies links to bankrupt businessman

Nasrallah: Aim of the media reports to "to harm the image" of many of the party's leaders.

nasrallah 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
nasrallah 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah on Tuesday denied any involvement in the dealings of a bankrupt Lebanese businessman who is suspected of depriving investors of hundreds of millions of dollars. The Lebanese financier, Salah Ezzedine, is suspected of creating a Ponzi scheme that promised investors up to 40 percent returns a year - a case that has drawn comparisons in Lebanon with that of Bernard Madoff. He turned himself in to Lebanese authorities in August after declaring himself bankrupt and is now in custody and being investigated. "Neither Hizbullah, nor its leadership, nor its members have any link to this matter," Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in comments e-mailed to The Associated Press by Hizbullah's media office Tuesday. "Leaders (of Hezbollah) do not have any of the alleged funds." Ezzedine, a wealthy businessman from the town of Maaroub near the southern port city of Tyre, is a prominent financier particularly among Shiite circles in Lebanon. He is the owner of Dar Al-Hadi Publishing House - one of Lebanon's most prominent publishing houses of religious Shiite books which also prints books written by Hizbullah officials - and al-Hadi TV for children. Recent media reports in Lebanon have alleged that Hizbullah has had business dealings with Ezzedine, somewhat shaking Hizbullah's image as an austere resistance movement and provoking rare criticism by journalists known to be close to the group. One of them, Ibrahim al-Amin, wrote in Al-Akhbar daily on Saturday that most of the people who deposited money with Ezzedine were members of Hizbullah's families or supporters. He added that the case is an "alarm bell" because Hizbullah's supporters and members are known to have long lived a simple and religious life but were starting to want more money than they earn. Sateh Noureddine, managing editor of the Lebanese As-Safir daily, which is close to Hizbullah, wrote Monday that "Hizbullah is not the first and will not be the last revolutionary movement that gets corrupted with money." Nasrallah said he believed the aim of the media reports was to "to harm the image" of many of the party's leaders. He made the same remarks in a speech aired late Monday by the group's Al-Manar TV.