#PanamaPapers: Biggest Leak In History On Corruption & No Lebanese Listed .. Yet

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If you haven’t been following up on the #PanamaPapers leak then you are missing out on what could possibly be the biggest-ever leak of secret information. Almost 11.5m documents, 2.6 terabytes of information related to 214,000 offshore companies were drawn from Mossack Fonseca’s internal database. Mossack Fonseca is a Panama-based law firm whose services include incorporating companies in offshore jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands.

Offshore business is entirely legal but can also be used to hide illegal money (bribes, drug money etc …). Here’s what the #PanamaPapers have revealed so far:

– There are over 140 politicians from more than 50 countries connected to offshore companies in 21 tax havens. These include heads of state, their associates, ministers and elected officials. [Source]
– Vladimir Putin’s inner circle appears to control about $2 billion worth of offshore assets.
– The Prime Minister of Iceland secretly owned the debt of failed Icelandic banks while he was involved in political negotiations over their fate.
– The family of Pakistan’s prime minister owns millions of dollars worth of real estate via offshore accounts.
– Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pledged to sell his Ukrainian business interests during his campaign, but appears instead to have transferred them to an offshore company he controls. [Source]
– More than 800 wealthy Australians are under investigation by the Australian Taxation Office for possible tax evasion linked to their alleged dealings with Mossack Fonseca.
– Two big soccer figures named in the documents: Michel Platini and Lionel Messi. Officials that were charged in FIFA’s latest scandal were also mentioned.

Journalists have been working for over a year on the documents that were first leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung so check out the following [link] for more updates. I recommend you also monitor the Panama Papers Live Update Thread [here].


There’s no mention of Lebanese (yet) in the papers but the leaks have just started coming out so let’s wait and see. Meanwhile, here’s what Mossack Fonseca had to say:

“It is legal and common for companies to establish commercial entities in different jurisdictions for a variety of legitimate reasons, including conducting cross-border mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcies, estate planning, personal safety, restructuring and pooling of investment capital from different jurisdictions in neutral legal and tax regimes that does not benefit or disadvantage any one investor. Our services are regulated on multiple levels, often by overlapping agencies, and we have a strong compliance record.

In addition, we have always complied with international protocols … to assure as is reasonably possible, that the companies we incorporate are not being used for tax evasion, money laundering, terrorist finance or other illicit purposes. [Full Response]

Here’s a video explaining how you hide a billion dollars:

New York-based Restaurant ilili: First Lebanese Restaurant To Receive The 5-Star Diamond Award

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This is the first time I heard about that restaurant to be honest as I’ve never been to New York and the news may be a bit old but it’s definitely worth sharing especially that it got featured last week on Kalam Ennas.

ilili ilili is apparently Sofia Vergara’s favorite NY restaurant

ilili, which means “tell me” in colloquial Lebanese, is a Lebanese Restaurant founded and managed by Phillipe Massoud who’s also the executive chef. ilili has been open since 2007 and has won back in July 2014 the five star diamond award, one of the highest awards available in the world’s hospitality industry. The award is the highest given by the International Academy of Hospitality and Sciences, in recognition of excellence in the field of hospitality, quality, service and more.

ilili3 Lamb burger, topped with air cured beef and a kashkaval spread.

The restaurant offers traditional Lebanese dishes with a contemporary touch, such as Atayef & Veal Bacon, Duck Shawarma (duck magret & chicken, fig jam, green onion, garlic whip), Kale fattoush and Lobster hummus. It also has all the traditional mezza that any Lebanese restaurant would serve (Baba Ghannouj, Tabbouleh, Fattoush, Warak Enab etc ..)

Quoting its executive Chef Massoud, “It’s a New York restaurant for the New York market. In a sense we didn’t open it with the Lebanese in New York [in mind]. We opened it for the New Yorkers in New York.”

knefe Knefe bi Jebneh

The restaurant and the dishes look amazing and I love how passionate the Chef is about Lebanese cuisine and Lebanon. I’m definitely going there when I visit NY.


PS: All pictures were taken from ilili’s page.

Updated: Weird Protest Near Nahr el Mot Bridge

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Nahr via Darine

Update (26/04/2016): Expect to see more people with wooden boxes on their heads tomorrow on the Dora Pedestrian Bridge starting 2:00 p.m. Those behind the project released a teaser video today that I’m sharing below. Everyone is invited to take part in their experiment for the next 2 weeks.

I doubt that I can make it tomorrow but I’m eager to see what this is about!


They had no signs or banners and were just standing there under the “very illogical” Nahr el Mot bridge facing City Mall.

Does anyone know what this is about?

Maameltein Sex Ring: Victims Recount Horrific Stories of Rape, Abuse & Torture

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The Lebanese security forces dismantled yesterday the country’s largest known sex trafficking ring that was operating in Maameltein, a neighborhood in Jounieh also considered as Lebanon’s red-light district. The police freed around 75 Syrian female sex slaves, two of which might have been minors. The human and sex trafficking network has been operating for at least 10 years and was busted after 5 women managed to escape and inform the authorities.

The presence of sex rings in Lebanon is no surprise but it’s quite shocking that they’ve been operating for 10 years in a highly suspicious area and were never caught. What’s even more shocking are the horrific stories of rape, abuse and torture that were told by the freed girls to local TVs and websites.

LBCI shared one testimony while Legal-Agenda mentioned more than 5 stories. Most of these women lost their families in Syria and came to Lebanon looking for a new life but were instead tricked and dragged into prostitution in the worst possible ways.

Sally is 27 years old and has been a sex slave for almost 3 years. She fell for a Syrian man who promised to marry her but then took her to a whorehouse in Maameltein where she got locked up, abused and tortured repeatedly. Another girl called Nagham thought she was going to work at a pub before realizing she’s becoming a sex slave. Nagham had been working for 2 weeks and was forced to eat one cucumber per day only to lose weight as she was told her body wasn’t “appealing” to customers.

The worst part is that these poor women underwent nearly 200 abortions according to the detained doctor, or should I say butcher, and some of the women almost died in the process.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds if not thousands of human and sex trafficking networks in Lebanon and Syrian refugees, mainly children and women, are the most vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse. Many women who are unable to find work are subjected to regular sexual harassment or forced into prostitution. A lot of them simply prostitute themselves for money and aid or send their children to work on the streets.

Two weeks ago, a man confessed to having purchased four children, “two five year old twin girls, a boy about one year and several months, and his eight-year old bigger brother”, near Ramlet el Baida beach recently from a stressed-out Syrian woman for $600. The kids had lost their parents during the war and the woman was no longer able to take care of them. Luckily for the kids, they are being well taken care of but this just gives you an idea of what Syrian refugee children are going through.

We all hear horror stories from Syria but the scale of exploitation faced by Syrian refugees in Lebanon is dangerously high and the authorities have yet to regulate their presence and make them feel protected and safe, especially the families. Lebanon might collapse any day under the weight of the massive influx of Syrian refugees and has to manage in a better way the Syrian crisis starting with refugee children and women abuse.

Lebanese Dream Of High Speed Internet

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intenret via @haidcar

The above table was being shared yesterday as an April Fools’ joke. I have no idea whether it’s all fabricated or inspired from the 2020 plan announced by the MOT, but what’s sure is that we are still far from getting these speeds.

Few days ago, I asked people to share speedtest screenshots on Facebook and some of the speeds I got were deplorable. We are talking about 0.13, 0.47 and 0.12Mbps download DSL speeds here. The majority had speeds below 2Mbps while the highest speed I got was 4.69Mbps from a local cable provider in Achrafieh.

I’m glad that the internet topic is all over the news recently and as I stated previously, slow internet is as important as the garbage problem, whether you like to admit it or not, because technology has a huge impact on every country’s development and falling behind will cost us dearly in the future.



Saudi-Owned Daily Asharq al-Awsat Removed The Disrespectful Lebanon Cartoon

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sharq Caricature published in the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper “April Fools… the Lebanese state”

Saudi-owned daily Asharq al-Awsat angered Lebanese after it published a caricature earlier today depicting the Lebanese state as an April Fools’ joke. The cartoon was later on removed from the website without any explanation. The cartoon is disrespectful and offensive but I honestly laughed when I saw it because the joke is really on the paper and the cartoonist not on us.

Snapchat’s Beirut Story: AUB, National Anthem, AUB, Ain el Mreisse, National Anthem, Fattit Shrimps

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Snapchat has been featuring towns and cities as part of the “Life” Snapchat Stories and Beirut got its own Life Snapchat Story yesterday. Life stories are prepared by Snapchat and are basically a compilation of snaps from Snapchatters at events and locations around the world. Anyone can see them under “Live” on the Snapchat application.

Beirut’s story was a lousy one to be honest, but I’m not sure if I should blame Snapchat or Lebanese Snapchatters. Maybe it’s a sign that we need better Snapchatters in Beirut 🙂

Here are some of the things we learned in this story:
– Beirut’s logo is a mosque for some reason.
– Beirut is all about Ain el Mraisse, AUB and Beirut Souks.
– Maamoul is a national dessert (which we feed to pets as well).
– Fattit Shrimps is a traditional dish (local secrets).
– We sing the National Anthem everywhere we go.
– There are clowns in Beirut distributing balloons to cars rocking Ali el Deek.
– Everyone speaks English in Beirut except that motorist with his “Assalam 3alaykoum” greeting.

There are few good snaps in this story, mainly the Dabke, Oud, Wara2 Arich but that’s about it.

PS: They removed the fattit shrimps today from the story.

Najwa Karam’s Message to All Working Mothers

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mbc via MBC1

This is not an April Fool’s prank and this is coming from someone who is not married and doesn’t have children.

نجوي كرم توجه رسالة لكل امرأة قد تراها بعض النساء صدمة #شط_بحر_الهوى

Posted by MBC1 on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Apparently I’m a Doctor & Professor At the Lebanese University

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I got an email yesterday from a Lebanese University student asking me for a recommendation letter. I thought at first the letter was for my brother since it said “Dear Dr” and he’s a doctor but it was actually addressed to me.

I replied and asked the student where he got my email from and he told me the secretary at the university gave him this address thinking that it was his professor’s email. Of course I informed him that the email is wrong but then I looked through my junk mail and found tons of emails (some of them seemed confidential) being sent to my address from the LU. I also got a happy birthday email back in September with the professor’s name written in the subject.

I am going to email them in a bit and ask them to correct all this mess but I have 3 questions here:

– Where did they get my email from? And how come no one noticed there’s a wrong email in that long list?
– Why are all the emails listed in the TO: field and not hidden in BCC: as they should be?
– Why isn’t there an online directory for students to look up their teachers’ emails? And how do they communicate usually?