Lawsuits for compensation of $ 77 million for previously paid appropriations!

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In early 2016, the Beirut municipality paid, by court ruling, $ 33 million to a company that owns a property at the Mar Mikhael Junction – Bourj Hammoud, as compensation for indirect appropriation of the property, after the Council for Development and Reconstruction established a road link above it. It sounds normal. As for the unusual thing, it is that the company received the price of its property from the municipality twice! It had already received compensation for expropriation at the beginning of the project implementation, according to what municipal sources confirm. However, the clash of responsibilities between the municipality departments and the “Development and Reconstruction” regarding the tasks, roles and powers, “wasted the bowl”, and prevented the presentation of any document proving that the company sued for the acquisition of the first time. It is noteworthy that the former municipal council, for unknown reasons, waived its right to appeal the ruling, and thus $ 33 million was evacuated from the municipality’s accounts.This was not a “case and it passed.” There is another case in which a ruling was issued obligating the municipality to pay compensation exceeding three million dollars to a property owner in the Mazraa area, without the administration appealing the decision and without referring to the Council. Although the payment of compensation in similar cases takes months, it was remarkable that the compensation in this case was received at a record speed of no more than ten days, because one of its “heroes” was a member of the Municipal Council.
These, and other dozens of similar cases, stand behind them by a mafia that includes brokers, lawyers, employees and officials in the municipality, and “takes interest” in indirect acquisitions, through a described and systematic fraudulent process, as follows:
1) Obtaining complete “data” about expropriations, old and new, and communicating with owners of expropriated private real estate, especially in areas where the price of a square meter of land reaches imaginary sums, to persuade them to file compensation claims amounting to tens of millions of dollars before the Civil Court in Beirut (The Chamber dealing with administrative cases), against the Beirut municipality on charges of trespassing on their properties, even if they had previously received compensation.
2) After the municipality is informed of the case, it is the role of the “mafia” lawyer to find grounds for cases that lack any realistic or legal basis.
3) The complicity of some municipal administrative departments, which leads to the failure to produce any documents that refute the allegations, leading to their concealment and the claim that they were burned during the civil war.
4) The court will appoint an expert to assess the value of the real estate. Usually, appraisals are made according to higher prices, and a judgment is issued obliging the municipality to pay millions of dollars to be shared by the complicit parties.
It is known that indirect expropriation comes with the municipality placing its hand on private property by constructing a road or building sidewalks or using this property or part of it for a public benefit, in return for compensation to the owner and publishing the acquisition decree with the notification of those concerned.
This type of case issued by a judicial ruling is reported to the head of the cases department in the municipality, and the matter is referred to the governor who agrees to pay, without the need for the approval of the municipal council, the Ministry of Interior, the Audit Bureau, or any other oversight body. The sums paid are included in the budget under the item of expropriations, without it being known whether they are old or new acquisitions. This “smoothness” has led today to about 25 lawsuits filed by the owners of expropriated real estate, and it is striking that two lawyers are acting on behalf of all the plaintiffs who are demanding compensation amounting to 77 million dollars!
In all of this process, the municipal council looks like a deceived husband: the last one to know, as the former governor of Beirut, Ziad Shabib, refused to fulfill the municipality’s request to provide it with a list of the cases filed against it, as confirmed by the head of the municipality’s legal committee, member of the council, lawyer Antoine Seriani. The matter remained the same until the current governor, Marwan Abboud, assumed his position. He responded to the request of the Council, “and the Legal Committee is now able to view the case files that were previously prohibited from it.” Syriani asserted that the council “will study each file separately in order to prevent the issuance of judgments against the municipality as a result of the failure of some departments in it. We will take the necessary decisions, as happened with regard to the issue of real estate 358 – round last week.
Part of the aforementioned property was Sukleen, while 4 other companies (Omar Al Fahal Company, Mayal Sahnaoui Company, East Warehouses Company, and National Public Warehousing Company) occupied 88 thousand square meters of it. For years, the municipality did not charge the rent for the property from two companies that no longer operate it and lease it. On 10/4/2019, a municipal decision was issued recommending Shabib to require companies to vacate the property and file the necessary lawsuits to achieve this. The former governor referred the file to the Cases Department, and a lawyer was assigned to follow up on the matter. According to a letter submitted by Syriac to the current governor of Beirut on 10/12/2020, Shabib asked the lawyer in charge to “recover the rent for the cause of demolition, contrary to the content of Resolution 190, which prompted the lawyer himself to alert the Head of the Legal Department that the filing of the eviction lawsuit in exchange for the demolition will be arranged. Sums of money and compensation for all tenants. ”In the event that the municipality does not initiate the demolition and rebuilding within 18 months,“ it will incur additional compensation to the tenants over the basic compensation equivalent to half the value of the first compensation. ”

Two lawyers are acting on behalf of dozens of plaintiffs in cases whose value exceeds what the municipality has in its accounts

However, the head of the Cases Department, Muhammad Al-Asaad, insisted on proceeding with these measures without informing the municipal council. With the latter obtaining the lawsuit list, it became clear that the municipality was not collecting rent from one of the companies (Al-Ahlia Public Warehousing) for legal reasons, and that the latter had deposited rent allowances amounting to about 400 million pounds with the notary. Although the lawsuits are filed against 4 companies, the “warehouse company” was the only one that filed its lawsuit, and it is striking that it was filed at the end of last year, and about 20 days before the lawsuit was formally notified to it, a first response list attached to documents! The municipal council was informed of these details after obtaining the list of cases, which prompted it to take a decision to return from the restitution lawsuit under the pretext of demolition against the four companies, which thwarted the deal in which one of the companies received two compensation, in addition to an estimate of prices exceeding the realistic price, to end with sharing the yield and obtaining Each beneficiary is at least $ 20 million, according to informed municipal sources. On the other hand, administrative sources confirm that the Municipal Council took the decision to evacuate, so Shabib transferred him to the Cases Department, which assigned a lawyer to defend the municipality according to the legal argument he deems appropriate for recovery. She attributed the council’s reversal of the recovery decision to the failure of its project to build a waste incinerator, “If there is any fraud, it is the council’s fraud against tenants and not the other way around.”
This is one of about 25 files, all bearing the same title: compensation for indirect expropriations, all of which are successfully proceeding according to the same pretexts: the lack of documents proving the falsehood of these requests under the pretext of their disappearance or burning. Among the cases is one in favor of the endowments of the Maronite Archdiocese, amounting to 25 million dollars, and it relates to the appropriation of Fouad Boutros Road, which members of the municipality assert that the compensation for its acquisition was previously paid! However, since the acquisition was not carried out, the diocese demands the recovery of the so-called “free quarter”, although this requirement is illegal. And a second lawsuit from the owner of the property 1453 – Al-Bashoura demanding compensation of one million and 500 thousand dollars, a third from the owner of the property 20 – Al-Msaitbeh demanding 16 million dollars in compensation, a third in Ashrafieh with a value of 2 million dollars, and a fourth in Ras Beirut with 4 million dollars … And the list goes on.


Compensation in dollars
The main problem with the indirect acquisition lawsuits against the municipality is that judges issue their decisions to pay compensation in US dollars and not on the basis of the official exchange rate of 1,515 Lebanese pounds. The experts also estimate the compensation in dollars. Note that the sums requested by the plaintiffs are not final, but are appended to the phrase “with preserving the right to increase compensation upon receipt of the expert’s report”. Often the guess comes “many times higher than what the plaintiff himself demands”, which means that the $ 74 million lawsuit filed against the municipality is not final, rather it is likely to double or triple and exceed the 800 billion pounds that the municipality has in its accounts at the Bank of Lebanon!

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