Report: Al-Madina Bank Scandal Back to Spotlight after Madi-Harb Dispute

A decision by General Prosecutor Judge Hatem Madi to reopen the fraud case at al-Madina Bank raised question marks on his intentions, only days after he requested lifting the parliamentary immunity off MP Butros Harb for allegedly offending the president and the judiciary.

Madi tasked on Thursday an experts committee to reveal the names of persons who had received funds from al-Madina and its twin the United Credit Bank.

The committee was formed when the bank's millions of dollars of fraud erupted in 2003 to investigate money laundering.

The general prosecutor also asked the committee to probe the amount and the reasons of the payments made within a maximum three week deadline.

Madi's decision raised questions whether he intended to target Harb who had been at a certain stage the lawyer of a defendant in the bank scandal, Rana Koleilat, who was accused of playing a key role in the fraud.

But sources close to the lawmaker denied that he was paid off. They said that Koleilat once asked Harb to represent her in court but when he studied the bank's case he discovered a bouncing check of more than euro 300 million.

So he informed the suspect that he could not defend her, they added.

During 12 years at the private al-Madina bank, Koleilat rose from clerk to executive. It was an era in which Syria dominated Lebanon and when paying off Syrian intelligence agents and providing gifts to powerful politicians was common.

Koleilat was at the center of the scandal that engulfed al-Madina when the Central Bank announced in July 2003 that it had detected a cash deficit at the bank of more than euro 250 million, along with other irregularities.

Other suspects in the case include Adnan Abu Ayash and his brother Ibrahim.

Reports have said that the amount missing from the two banks could total as much as euro 1.0 billion.

Madi sent a memo to Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi on Monday requesting that the Batroun MP's immunity be lifted, so that he can be tried for offending President Michel Suleiman and the judiciary.

But Harb challenged him, saying he would file a lawsuit against the general prosecutor for trying to strike a deal with Hizbullah over a party member accused of involvement in an assassination attempt against him last year.

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