Why The Lebanese Illicit Enrichment Law Is Impossible To Use

Conseil Constitutionel Libanais

To say that the Lebanese 17 October Revolution has achieved nothing but the disturbance of everyday routine is an extremely wrongful and almost barbaric unfairness.

Most people have been seeking the streets for a window of freedom; to break free from all the chains of secularism and corruption deeply buried in governmental associations.

If anything, the Lebanese Revolution has created a new kind of awareness in the mind of Lebanese people, who, for years, have only taken information from political leaders with personal agendas.

People have learned to question everyone and everything, including the Lebanese media that is well known to be owned by governors and politicians.

Nowadays, they are seeking new methodologies and new ways to receive credible information; be it from workshops or seminars, or even listening to different opinions and perspectives that oppose certain beliefs.

This revolution led to the birth of a generation that believes that we cannot move forward if we do not come to peace with our past.

Coming to peace with the past means addressing Lebanon’s modern history, good and bad, and exile every political figure affiliated one way or another in the suffering of the Lebanese people for over 15 years.

Two of the many sectors the Lebanese people have been trying to understand are the economic and the judicial.

It is well believed that fighting corruption means that we need to bring to trial politicians who have entered their governmental positions as middle-to-low-class citizens, and left as enormous billionaires. And also the wealthy who used their positions to quadruple (or more) their wealth.

One of the ways we can fight through this is by going after politicians who are illicitly rich, using the Lebanese Illicit Enrichment Law issued in 1999.

Or so we have thought.

Much to our dismay, and to the relief of illicit rich politicians, this law has many conditions that were purposely put to make it impossible for the law itself to convict anyone.

The 1999 Illicit Enrichment Law illegalizes funds acquired by illicit means as funds acquired by an employee, a provider of public services, or their relatives or partners through bribery, use of influence, exploitation of their job or any other illegal means.

However, according to Article 10 of this same law: “Every affected person shall file a written complaint signed by him/her with the public prosecution or directly with the first investigating of Beirut. The complainant shall submit a bank guarantee of LBP 25 million.”

And if you think 25 million LBP (equivalent to 16,600 USD) is a significant amount of money, Article 15 of the same law stipulates the following:

“If it is decided to stop the prosecution of the defendant, the competent authority shall, by an enforceable decision, sentence the bad-faith complainant to a fine of at least LBP 200 million and to the imprisonment of between three months and one year.”

“It shall also force the complainant to compensate for the damages caused by the complaint.”

For the cherry on top, this law can only be applied to politicians and governors (current or former) and cannot reach the private sector in any way; unless there was some kind of partnership between the private and the public sectors.

Anyone can use the Illicit Enrichment Law to file a lawsuit against any politician.

To say I have sold a kidney and decided to press charges against a politician for illicit enrichment, what guarantees that I will not be shoved to a wall or a dead end because of nepotism and political connections? Nothing.

Twenty years since the Illicit Enrichment Law was issued, no Illicit Enrichment lawsuit has been raised against any government official, minister, or MP, although many of their enrichment aspects are mostly unjust.

Except for the one charged by the Public Prosecutor of Mount Lebanon, Ghada Aoun, against former Prime Minister of Lebanon Najib Mikati for illegitimate gains.

Despite the speculations saying that the lawsuit was filed for political grudges, Judge Aoun was met with disciplinary actions from State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat for the same political grudge comeback.

This legal action, however it may have seemed and have been dealt with, did pave the way for another attempt in using this law again. These practices of oppression used to work pre-revolution; not anymore.

Somehow, this revolution has ignited a fire in the spirits of the Lebanese people, a fire that has been urging them not only to seek urgent reforms but to press even forward when injustice is used against them, any of them, and in any form.

The more the oppressive and abusive actions on them, the stronger their determination.

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