A Lebanese prosecutor has accused former Prime Minister Najib Mikati—Lebanon’s richest man—and the country’s biggest bank of making illicit gains from a subsidized housing program, in the first corruption case filed since anti-government protesters took to the streets a week ago, reported Bloomberg.
The lawmaker, his brother Taha and his son Maher as well as Bank Audi, are alleged to have illegally benefited from loans subsidized by Banque du Liban to help ordinary families buy their own home.
The government presented an emergency reform earlier this week to avert the financial crisis and appease the public, but the move has failed to quell the revolt.
In a statement, Bank Audi said that it complies with the law and denied playing a role in any scheme to reap illicit gains.
Mikati responded by saying he was ready to face any legal proceedings and open to scrutiny, adding that the charges against him were politically motivated and instigated by President Michel Aoun.
The Mikati family had taken loans to buy two apartments under a central bank program that aimed to encourage investment spending by capping the interest rates charged by commercial banks at six per cent, said Mikati’s office. The purchases were made prior to the introduction in 2013 of the central bank-subsidized loan program that was managed through the Public Housing Institution and was valid only for properties worth $500,000 or less.
Mikati and his billionaire brother—the two wealthiest men in Lebanon—co-founded the Beirut-based firm M1 Group, which has investments in telecommunications companies in South Africa, and other holdings in Monaco, London and New York.