'Lebanese Madoff' Shames Hezbollah

Financier accused of using ties to party to dupe Shiites out of their savings

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 16, 2009 1:48 AM CDT

(Newser) – A Lebanese businessman's billion-dollar Ponzi scheme has left thousands of investors penniless and Hezbollah leaders seriously embarrassed, reports the New York Times. Salah Ezzedine—dubbed the "Lebanese Bernie Madoff" by the nation's press—has strong ties to Hezbollah, and many of the mostly Shiite investors in his scheme say that led them to trust him when they were wary of banks and other mainstream Lebanese institutions.

Ezzedine, owner of a publishing house that specializes in religious titles, has been charged with embezzlement and fraud. Hezbollah leaders—some of whom were among the duped investors—have set up a crisis network to help victims, but have rejected calls to provide compensation. Some investors still remain loyal to Ezzedine, blaming the collapse of his investment scheme on the US and Israel.

A man checks books at Dar Al-Hadi Publishing House, one of Lebanon's most prominent publishing houses of religious Shiite books. The firm's financier owner has been charged with fraud.   (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
A Shiite woman holds a poster of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah during a rally marking the ninth anniversary of Israel's troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon.   (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Lebanese farmer Mahmoud Sheet checks his sunflower plants in the village of Kfar Kila, southern Lebanon. Hezbollah's heartland has suffered heavy financial losses in a Ponzi scheme.   (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
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It’s a disaster, a tsunami. Some farmers mortgaged their fields and brought in cash. Others sold land they had inherited from their parents. Teachers gave up all their savings. Old people lost everything they had.
- An investor bilked by Ezzedine

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