BEIRUT: The Lebanese Forces (LF) said Friday it had moved a step closer to regaining the possession of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) television after an indictment issued one day earlier favored the LF in its ongoing dispute with the station’s chairman Pierre al-Daher over its ownership.
“Daher failed to challenge the legitimacy of the LF’s case through legal means and thus is attempting to politicize the issue since he lacks legal proof to back his claims,” LF MP Georges Adwan said in a news conference on Friday.
Addressing reporters at his office in Beirut, Adwan described the indictment issued by Beirut Investigative Magistrate Thursday, which found Daher guilty of “embezzlement, fraud and misuse of trust,” as “a downright legal decision to return ownership to its righteous holders.”
On Thursday, Daher condemned the indictment saying the battle was over media freedom rather than over the ownership of LBC.”
Adwan said Daher has acknowledged before the investigative judge that LBC’s ownership belonged to the LF from 1985 until 1992, after which he claimed that he purchased the institution during a closed door meeting with LF leader Samir Geagea.
The legal dispute between the LF and LBC started in November 2007 over the ownership of the LBC, which was established by the LF in 1985.
Despite building his legal case on the purchase of LBC during that alleged “secret meeting” with Geagea, Daher failed to present any proof of payment made to the former for the purchase, Adwan said.
Adwan added that the LF’s transfer of shares to Daher, delegating him to act on behalf of the party, was tied to a contract signed by Daher confirming that the ownership of these shares belonged to the LF.
“Daher claimed that he acquired the contract when he purchased LBC but when the judge asked him for the papers, he said they were lost,” Adwan said, adding that Daher failed to present documents because they were still in the possession of the LF lawyer who presented them to the judge.
Another element that supported the LF’s case, according to Adwan, was the testimony of late media tycoon Antoine Choueiri, who owned the media representative that marketed spots in LBC from 1985-2008.
Adwan said Choueiri, whose marketing of the broadcaster was the main source of funding for LBC, testified before the judge that he accompanied Daher to visit Geagea in 1993, a date that followed Daher’s claim of purchasing the station, to ask the LF leader to allow LBC to move to a building owned by the party in Adma.
Adwan added that Choueiri testified that in 1993 Geagea undertook, with former Premier Rafik Hariri, negotiations to merge LBC with other television stations.
“How was LBC supposed to be sold in 1992 when Geagea was negotiating in 1993 the merger that would have led to the LF’s ownership of 40 to 50 percent of the shares of the merged institutions?” Adwan asked. “Saying that LBC was sold [to Daher] is a heresy,” Adwan quoted Choueiri saying in his testimony.
The indictment issued on Thursday was not only restricted to the LF’s right to LBC’s ownership but to all institutions affiliated to the station.
Asked to comment on Adwan’s news conference, LBC said, Daher’s response was “it does not merit a response.”