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Panel to assess property tied to Al-Madina chair - Early estimate: $250 million in assets (Daily Star)

The Central Bank formed a special committee to assess the true value of properties held by the chairman of the troubled Al-Madina Bank and some of its clients in an attempt to liquidate them and cover part of the $350 million loss.

Lawyers for Al-Madina chairman Adnan Abu Ayyach and some of his clients, such as Taha Qulilat, estimate the assets held by their clients at around $250 million. Sources said that Abu Ayyach and some of the individuals involved in the issuance of bad checks are trying to reach an out-of-court settlement.

They claimed that the Central Bank will give Abu Ayyach some time to raise the money so they can close the file of Al-Madina once and for all.

The Central Bank froze the assets of 21 suspects, including Abu Ayyach and Qulilat. Bankers said that the suspects have over 200 properties in their names.

Among these properties are the five-star Sheraton Coral Beach Hotel, Verdun 720 shopping mall, and several villas, apartments and shops in Beirut and the mountains. But the Central Bank believes that the value of these assets are much lower than $250 million.

The property experts are expected to file a report to the Central Bank within 15 days, detailing the properties and their actual value.

But sources close to this case do not believe that the Central Bank will be able to sell these properties on short notice. The Central Bank’s governor, Riad Salameh, has been holding talks with some lawyers to speed up the transfer of cash into the bank.

The provisional general manager of Al-Madina, Andreh Bandali, who was appointed by the Central Bank, accused Abu Ayyach and his personal secretary, Rana Qulilat, of issuing a check for $349 million with no proper balance. But State Prosecutor Adnan Adoum told reporters that he cannot start the investigation until he receives a report from the Special Investigation Commission on money laundering.

A lawyer for the bank told The Daily Star that the main priority is to restore all the money to the depositors and added that three experts appointed by the Central Bank are already assessing the value of properties owned by the bank and some clients. He also said that the Central Bank will not settle for anything less than $350 million from Abu Ayyach and some of the bank’s clients.

The scandal prompted many depositors to rush to the bank to withdraw their deposits. But to their surprise, the depositors were told that they can only withdraw 10 percent of their accounts and savings until the rest of the money is restored.

The Banking Control Commission issued a statement Tuesday in response to the statement by Addoum, who was angered by the delay in issuing a report on Al-Madina. The commission said that it has submitted two reports and a recommendation on Al-Madina in more than two years.

The reports recommended the appointment of a provisional manager to the bank to monitor its operations. The commission accused Al-Madina and its subsidiary United Credit Bank of misappropriation of funds and fraudulent practices. Most bankers say the banking sector is not at risk.

Beirut 21-07-2003
Osama Habib
The Daily Star



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