'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
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)
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(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.