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Abu Hamzeh appealing Jumblatt lawsuits
File - Bahij Abou Hamzeh. (The Daily Star/Stringer)
File - Bahij Abou Hamzeh. (The Daily Star/Stringer)
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BEIRUT: Lawyers representing a prominent Druze businessman are petitioning for lawsuits filed by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt and Safa football team to be dropped, The Daily Star has learned.

Earlier this month, Jumblatt’s lawyers – Walid Sfeir and Hussam Rasbey – filed two lawsuits against Bahij Abu Hamzeh before the first investigative judge of Beirut, Ghassan Oweidat. One of the complaints centers on a land dispute.

Judicial sources told The Daily Star that Bahij Mujahid, Abu Hamzeh’s lawyer, was preparing to present Oweidat with a memo with a list of reasons that the lawsuits should be dropped.

The sources said a third lawsuit accusing Abu Hamzeh of a breach of trust was filed by Safa football team, which is sponsored by Jumblatt.

A leading businessman who was once close to Jumblatt, Abu Hamzeh at one point ran the PSP chief’s real estate endeavors and managed his private properties. Abu Hamzeh was also the former head of the Association of Oil Importing Companies.

But ties between the two have cooled significantly in recent months, with the Druze leader relieving Abu Hamzeh of his duties after around 30 years of service. Abu Hamzeh also recently resigned from his post as the head of Safa’s board of trustees.

In one of the lawsuits filed by Jumblatt, he accuses Abu Hamzeh and Hussein Bdeir, a Shiite businessman, of selling him a piece of land that did not actually exist.

The lawsuit says that “according to a well-prepared plan,” Bdeir promoted a project to build residential complexes on a huge piece of land he bought in Wadi Abu Youssef, an area that lies by the entrance to the Chouf district.

Parts of the lawsuit allege that Bdeir asked Abu Hamzeh to convince Jumblatt to buy the land in order to prevent the project from taking place.

This happened shortly after Jumblatt, in late 2010, bought a piece of land that borders Wadi Abu Youssef at a high price in order to conserve its nature, as its owner was excavating the area. The deal was done through Abu Hamzeh.

Jumblatt states in the lawsuit that Bdeir and Abu Hamzeh deliberately showed him a map that did not show the actual size of the land he bought.

He said he paid for 499,240 square meters of land, but that its actual size was 232,900 square meters after land zoning, so that he ended up buying 266,340 meters square of land – worth around $8 million – that did not actually exist.

Jumblatt said Abu Hamzeh “whom he has fully trusted,” had stressed to the PSP leader that the map matched the actual size of the land.

The PSP leader said he was the victim of an “organized fraud,” and accused Abu Hamzeh and Bdeir of taking advantage of that fact that he was busy with politics and social obligations in order to dupe him.

When contacted by The Daily Star, Abu Hamzeh refused to comment, saying: “I am not commenting to media outlets on this issue.”

But Bdeir dismissed the accusations made against him by Jumblatt as lies.

“There is no single word Walid Jumblatt says in the lawsuit which is true,” Bdeir told The Daily Star. “These are all fabrications.”

Bdeir said shortly after he bought the land in 2010, rumors spread that it was actually Hezbollah that had bought the land. “But I am not a member of Hezbollah, I am from the Amal Movement.”

Bdeir said that in 2011, Abu Hamzeh telephoned him and invited him to his office.

“I didn’t know him before that. I only met him on one or two occasions, I have no ties with him, he’s not a friend,” Bdeir explained.

Bdeir said when he visited Abu Hamzeh, the latter told him that Jumblatt was interested in buying the land from him.

A few days later, Bdeir said, he visited Jumblatt at his Clemenceau residence in Beirut and agreed to sell him the land, providing him with authentic documents and maps in the presence of Abu Hamzeh and lawyers.

Bdeir said he tasked a lawyer with representing him in the case, adding that he would file a lawsuit against Jumblatt for “defamation and blackmail.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 23, 2013, on page 4.
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