Lebanon: The Al-Khayat Family’s Links to the British Virgin Islands

Ali Nour
Lebanese Journalist
October 4, 2021
Tahseen Khayat, Karim, Karma and Nadia... The appearance of the Khayat family's name in the "Pandora Papers" may indicate their desire to avoid the tax costs that would result from registering companies in Lebanon or Europe.

It is hard to find a model in which media, politics and the world of contracting are as mixed as in the case of the Al-Khayat family, which owns and manages Al Jadeed TV, is politically active, and at the same time is a prominent player when it comes to contracting, especially in the Lebanese electricity sector.

Al Jadeed chairman Tahseen Khayat aspires to play a role in the world of Lebanese politics, while the family has links with many activists and actors in the political arena.  All of these roles put the family, and specifically the chairman, in an ambiguous position. In fact, opponents have accused him of using his media to influence the parallel world of public tenders.

Apart from such allegations, which are generally based on circumstantial evidence, the Pandora Papers now reveal a long list of companies, which are owned by the family, and based in the British Virgin Islands. Their purpose is not immediately clear. Usually, companies are registered in a tax haven as the British Virgin Islands to hide activities the owners do not want to be in sight for tax reasons.

In addition, through such companies it is possible to make deals away from local supervision.  As the family is known for its activities and conflicting interests, it is important to investigate the purpose of establishing companies in this way.

The Khayat Family in the British Virgin Islands 

The documents show that the family of the Al Jadeed founder and chairman owns Garnet Publishing Ltd., the shares of which are distributed as follows: Karim Tahseen Khayat (60%), Nadia Tahseen Khayat (30%) and Tahseen Khayat (10%). 

The three partners owned these shares when the company was established in February 2010. An Internet search for Garnet Publishing Ltd. clearly shows its presence as a publishing house in London, as part of the Tahseen Khayyat Group, which leads us to exclude the hypothesis that the company is a front for other activities.

Politics mixed with media and the world of contracting and investments, as is the case of the Al-Khayat family.

Another company named is G.C. Events Ltd. It appears from the documents that three persons have been appointed as directors of the party-planning company since June 2008: Karma Tahseen Khayat, Nadia Tahseen Khayyat, and Tahseen Khayyat’s wife Samar Samih Bek Oseiran. 

When researching the company, it turns out that there are indeed party organizing activities being organized under this particular name, managed by Samar Oseiran.

Two other companies in the documents are TSK Property Finance Ltd. and Rutland Nominees (PTC) Ltd., owned by Mohamed Tahsin Khayat since March 2013.  The two companies share a similar objective in terms of commercial activities. It appears from the documents that Mohamed Tahsin Khayat was appointed as Director for both companies in March 2013, with the difference of only a day. 

Yet another company featuring in the documents is Tahseen Khayat Group (TKG) Ltd., which is owned by Mohamed Tahseen Khayat, Karim Tahseen Khayat and Nadia Tahseen Khayat.

New TV 

The most important Al-Khayat company registered in the British Virgin Islands is NEW TV SAT Ltd. Its activities are clearly related to the work of Al Jadeed TV (New TV), which owns some 14% of its shares. To be precise, these shares are owned by Lebanese firm New TV SAL. 

The Al-Khayat family also owns a stake in the company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Tahseen Khayat himself owns about 36%, while Karim and Karma Khayat each own 5%.  In other words, with a stake of over 60%, Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed TV and the Al-Khayat family together own the majority of the shares of NEW TV SAT Ltd., which guarantees them control over its management.

It also shows the presence of several Gulf businessmen among the company’s shareholders, including Qataris Khalid bin Thani Al Thani and Nasser Rashid Al Kaabi, who both entered in 2003, Kuwaiti Youssef Al-Badr, who entered in 2002, and Abbas Ghazzawi, a former Saudi journalist and diplomat, who entered in 2002. 

It is striking that some of the shares of NEW TV SAT Ltd. are registered in the name of other companies, also registered in tax havens, instead of being registered in the names of the final economic right holders. Three companies registered in the British Virgin Islands appear among the shareholders: ZEENAN LTD, SOMMERFLEET HOLDINGS LIMITED and GRAPHIX SYSTEMS LIMITED. 

The documents also show that Jordanian businessman Youssef Hussein Abu Bakr became a partner by buying shares in February and April 2006.

Al-Khayat’s Response

As a matter of clarification and the right of reply, Daraj wrote to the Tahseen Khayyat Group to ask about these companies and the reason for their registration in the British Virgin Islands. The group explained that all of these companies were established by the family and their ownership had not been transferred or purchased from another party.

Garnet works in the field of publishing and practices this activity in most countries of the world and many Arab countries, while G.C. Events Limited was engaged in organizing events, parties and weddings outside Lebanon, before the company was subsequently dissolved. As for TSK Property Finance Limited and Rutland Nominees (PTC) Limited, they were established for the purpose of financing the purchase and ownership of a residential apartment exclusively, in accordance with British laws, while Tahseen Khayat Group (TKG) Limited was established as the parent company that includes the group of foreign companies under it.

Finally, with regard to NEW TV SAT LIMITED, the group stated that the goal of establishing the company was to include non-Lebanese shareholders in New TV, given that Lebanese law does not allow non-Lebanese ownership of radio and television stations, and New TV LLC. NS. NS. (registered in Lebanon) operates according to Law 382/94 and includes only Lebanese shareholders.

In short, it does not appear from the above that there are interfaces among these companies that make it difficult to link the reason for their existence to the family’s investments and activities, which are known to the public. However, the presence of these companies in tax havens far beyond the control of the Lebanese authorities, and the European countries in which they operate, signals a desire to avoid restrictions and paying taxes.  

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