Lebanon News

Syria hands unlicensed travel agency owner to Lebanese authorities

The New Plaza Tours offices in Beirut, Aug. 22, 2019. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Fawaz Youssef Fawaz, the owner of an unlicensed Lebanese travel agency, which recently left hundreds of tourists stranded in Turkey, was handed over to General Security Monday. It appears that the owner of New Plaza Tours absconded to Syria after the tourists were left in various locations across Turkey last Thursday, with no way to get home.

Local media had reported Sunday that Syrian security arrested Fawaz in Damascus and transferred him to an investigation center.

In a statement released Monday, General Security explained that Fawaz had been brought back to Lebanon through the east Lebanon Masnaa border crossing between the two countries on Monday.

Fawaz’s transfer to General Security was made possible by “coordination with the relevant Syrian authorities,” the statement read.

All New Plaza Tours branches have been closed since the incident, which was caused when the agency failed to pay for hundreds of return flights, resulting in their cancellation.

They began to return in batches Saturday morning.

As of Monday afternoon, a total of 474 people had made their way back to Lebanon, according to Director-General of Civil Aviation Mohammad Chehabeddine.

Another group of tourists are expected to reach Lebanon Wednesday morning, Chehabeddine added.

An agreement brokered Friday night between the Higher Relief Committee and the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation facilitated the return of the stranded travelers.

The Higher Relief Committee and small travel agencies that passengers had used as middlemen to make their bookings each agreed to pay half of the price of the plane tickets.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 27, 2019, on page 2.

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