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Lebanon: The Prime Minister Demands that AUB Transfer His Money Abroad

Ghalia Al Alwani- Syrian Journalist
July 9, 2020
To backdrop of his people’s empty fridges, dark homes, and numerous suicides on account of devastating poverty… whilst Lebanese youth waste their days slaving at jobs they have stopped getting paid for months back, PM Hassan Diab believes he deserves to be paid his salary, in fresh money, five years in advance.

“Come with dollars,” disgraced Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab addresses Lebanese expats, as Beirut’s airport opens for the first time on July 1st since it’s shut down on March 18th for quarantine measures relating to Coronavirus. Many Lebanese politicians have been celebrating the re-opening of the airport, assuring the reappearance of lucrative tourism opportunities and hoping for the return of Lebanese expats to inject fresh dollars back into the economy.

If hypocrisy were to transform itself from a linguistic notion into a living human scenario, it would manifest itself in the form of a lawsuit, one PM Hassan Diab himself is reportedly filing against his former employer, the struggling American University of Beirut, seeking around $1 million in severance pay that he wants transferred outside of Lebanon.

A senior AUB source has confirmed to Daraj that Diab had first asked AUB’s Board of Trustees in January for his future salary payment attached to his contract that expires in 2025, and is now seeking compensation for the delays to this payment which all in all amount to over $1 million.

“As soon as he became prime minister he started to try to bully AUB into paying him his full contract, even the years he didn’t serve yet,” a senior AUB official who preferred not to be named tells Daraj. “He wanted his future salary to be paid in full… contractual, means you need to fulfill your contract.”

According to the source, Diab then filed a petition to the Board of Trustees in April again asking for these funds, and threatened to sue them if they’d reject to accept this. During this meeting, Diab made an oral request that his payment be made overseas. On Tuesday, it was reported that his two lawyers, Naji Al-Bustani and Amal Hadad had submitted a formal lawsuit against AUB back in June.

“He verbally asked for his money to be transferred abroad, so he wants to be paid in dollars,” the AUB official added. “We [AUB staff and faculty] don’t even get paid in local dollars, we get paid in Lebanese pounds. I personally get paid nothing, my salary is peanuts now.”

Diab, while reassuring Lebanese citizens of an efficient financial plan in the works, and placing heavy blame on Head of the Central Bank Riad Salameh for the depreciation of the Lebanese Lira, asks the Lebanese expats to “come with dollars,” all the while attempting to snatch dollars from his strained former employers, demanding them to be sent abroad, citing the economic crisis, the one he is tasked with fixing, as the reasoning behind that decision.

Diab’s lawyer Haddad’s told “Daraj” that the PM is asking for compensation for the 35 years during which he worked at the university, as well as for the contract he signed that ends in 2025. She emphasized that he “demanded that this compensation be transferred to his account abroad, and this is his right, especially since the amounts he is asking for have their source outside Lebanon.” She reiterated that the person concerned has the right to transfer the amount he’s asking for to any account he has anywhere in the world. This is an odd claim, however, given that AUB’s president, Fadlo Khuri, has previously confirmed that the university’s accounts are in Lebanese banks, and not in fact outside Lebanon. Even if he indeed had the right to transfer his money abroad, how does this fact fare in the eyes of the Lebanese who have been asked to bring their dollars back into the country?

The PM’s law suit is not only blatantly shameless, but also baseless. The source explained to Daraj that AUB’s policy states that one cannot continue to hold a full-time faculty position while serving in office, but are rather given the option of unpaid leave up to one year, and could be extended to two, which Diab has not applied for, nor would serve to his benefit in his case. He was also reportedly getting paid his salary, for his job as former Vice President for the Regional External Programs (REP) and a professor at the faculty of engineering, until the Parliament gave his government the vote of confidence, although during that time he had not been performing his job at AUB. To add to this, when he was indeed still employed for AUB, he was reportedly not very good at it, underperforming and achieving bad results on his assessments.

While the American University of Beirut, the historical institution that had announced a few months prior that it was undergoing its own financial crisis and has had to fire around 25% of its employees, struggles to make ends meet, it’s former esteemed employee, now turned premier, is using his power to suck its already depleted finances dry.

“We’re a large institution, we get sued often, but he’s using his status as premier to bully us,” the source tells Daraj. “Do you think a judge would risk his job in ruling against the prime minister in this case?”

Diab, while reassuring Lebanese citizens of an efficient financial plan in the works, and placing heavy blame on Head of the Central Bank Riad Salameh for the depreciation of the Lebanese Lira, asks the Lebanese expats to “come with dollars,” all the while attempting to snatch dollars from his strained former employers, demanding them to be sent abroad, citing the economic crisis, the one he is tasked with fixing, as the reasoning behind that decision.

To backdrop of his people’s empty fridges, dark homes, and numerous suicides on account of devastating poverty… while his people are forced into vegetarian diets, and traffic lights are replaced with men on account of electricity cuts… whilst Lebanese youth waste their days slaving at jobs they have stopped getting paid for months back, PM Hassan Diab believes he deserves to be paid his salary, in fresh money, five years in advance.

Since the Prime Minister’s office’s response to this scandal is weak and contradictory at best, instead I give you this, an excerpt from Diab’s “story” on his website, that he’s written himself:

“…One of the things that defined me is my courage and grit, my ability to take calculated risks, and my willingness to dive in the deep side of life. This attribute has enabled me to change my life and, I hope, that of those around me in a positive way.”

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