(Chalabi, right, next to Talabani and Bush; Al Bilad Islamic Bank in Hamra, Beirut-below)
Do you remember Bank MEBCO? What about PETRA? Both banks were driven to their Bankruptcy by one man: the Iraqi Ahmad Chalabi. The Arab Digest sheds light on this man's fresh links to Beirut.
"Follow the money" is the only way to understand Ahmad Chalabi, according to his biographer Aram Roston.* The Iraqi politician, invasion enthusiast and former banker has based some of his media and financial operations in Beirut.
A Chalabi Bank?
Roston had reported in 2010 that the Al Bilad Islamic Bank in Beirut has multiple connections to Chalabi. The bank was opened in 2006 by Isam al Uzri, a relative of Chalabi. This was not the first time the Uzri-Chalabi connection surfaced in the financial sector.
Chalabi, also the leader of the Iraqi National Congress had played a crucial role in appointing Isam's son, Hussein Al-Uzri, on top of the Trade Bank of Iraq, which is owned by the Iraqi government and had a $10 billion operation by 2008; Al-Uzri ran away to Beirut mid last year after the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki accused him of corruption - again, fingers were pointed to Chalabi who rushed in his relative's defense. Al Bilad Islamic Bank has a connection to Trade Bank of Iraq (of course no one will investigate the conflict of interest!).
According to Roston, another Al Bilad connection to Chalabi is a shareholder, his close aide, Aras Karim Habib, a Shiite Kurd who was accused by the CIA of being an Iranian double agent. The American forces have tried on multiple occasions to arrest Karim who went hiding until a few years ago when he emerged in Beirut. He maintains an appartment in Beirut's Ramlet El Baida, a seaside wealthy neighbourhood; 6 armed bodyguards accompany Karim in his internal trips.
The Arab Digest learned that the aforementioned bank bought a building in the wealthy Central area of Beirut for around $33 million; they also paid a very high and unusual commission.
A Chalabi TV Channel
A Chalabi TV Channel
Late last year, al-Akhbar reported that Asia TV channel in Beirut is connected to Ahmad Chalabi. The Channel's director is also Chalabi's aide and spokesperson, Intifad Kanbar, who denied in a statement to al-akhbar of any connection between the channel and Chalabi. But Kanbar remains an aide to Chalabi, and the Jnah building where ASIA channel is based, is home to some of Aras Karim's close relatives. It is no doubt a Chalabi channel. ASIA TV has been broadcasting documentaries before a full launch later this year.
An Iraqi Source told the Arab Digest that Chalabi has recently been allied to former Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi who maintains close ties with Saudi Arabia, and leads a large bloc in Iraq's parliament.
*Roston is an award winning journalist and the author of "The Man who pushed America to War", an investigative book on Chalabi.