Escalation In The Judicial Battle Against Head of Nefaa In Lebanon

The Director-General of the Traffic and Vehicles Management Authority in Lebanon, Hoda Salloum, was detained by the Public Prosecutor of Mount Lebanon Judge Ghada Aoun on Friday, December 13 to be investigated for the crimes of bribery, illicit enrichment, forgery, and breaching job duties.

Upon arresting Salloum, Judge Aoun requested the transfer of the case to the examining magistrate of Beirut, Judge George Rizk, for the second time after 48 hours of Salloum’s arrest in the Justice Palace in Baabda.

After receiving her case, Judge Rizk interrogated Hoda Salloum for 3 hours, before deciding to release her temporarily, which means that, when the period of the temporary release expires, and additional evidence is attached to the case, the investigation will resume. 

The judge then referred the case to the Attorney General in Beirut, who approved the decision to release Salloum.

However, being the initial prosecutor, Judge Ghada Aoun decided to use her right to appeal the decision, charging Salloum with a new case.

That leaves Salloum in custody until the appeal is viewed and judged by the concerned judicial authority. This happens 24 hours after the appeal request.

Meanwhile, the Public Prosecutor of Mount Lebanon has ordered the detainment of so far 16 individuals suspected to be involved in corruption in the Traffic and Vehicles Management Authority (known as Nefaa), 14 of which are employees, and 2 are brokers.

This escalation meant new evidence against the Director-General of “Nefaa,” and more jail time as a result.

In turn, Hoda Salloum filed a lawsuit against Judge Aoun for not having a permit from the Ministry of Interior to pursue and arrest her.

According to Al-Akhbar, Salloum told the examining magistrate of Beirut Judge Rizk that she had not signed the interrogatory, which renders the first case against her obsolete.

Salloum also said that Judge Aoun had written permission from the Minister of Interior to explicitly call her in and listen to her, and had no right to order her arrest.

However, as explained before, Judge Aoun was not required to request permission in the case of illicit enrichment, thus lawfully warranted the arrest of Salloum.

Moreover, Salloum’s agent Marwan Daher accused the Public Prosecutor of breaking the law with her second charge against his client.

He stated, “The judge issued an arbitrary arrest warrant, and we consider that a restriction of freedom because the arrest took place without any interrogation or allegation. We are taking the necessary measures.”

MP Hadi Hobeich is representing Hoda Salloum in her lawsuit against Judge Aoun. 

Speaking of the MP, he was himself a defendant in a case filed against him by Ghada Aoun but had refused to show up for investigation before State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat.

Judge Oueidat issued accordingly a letter to the Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri through the Minister of Justice, urging him to take appropriate disciplinary action against MP Hobeich.

On the same note, in a press conference he held to address his clash with Judge Aoun, MP Hobeich said that Nabih Berri “called me an hour after the incident to inquire about what happened to Judge Ghada Aoun, and asked me not to engage with Judge Aoun.”

He concluded: “This is all the contact involved regardless of what was leaked in the media.”

On Tuesday, December 17th, the National News Agency reported that Judge Ghada Aoun appeared before the Judicial Inspection Authority for the three judicial claims against her.

The claims are: Hobech’s personal lawsuit of last week, the unauthorized media statement she had made, and Hobeich’s most recent lawsuit regarding Salloum’s detainment.

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