Wednesday 16 October 2019

Prime minister 'gave $16m to bikini model he met on holiday'


Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. (Bilal Hussein/AP)
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Leila Molana-Allen

Lebanon's billionaire prime minister Saad Hariri gave a South African bikini model nearly $16m (€15m) after meeting her on holiday, it has emerged, as Lebanon faces violent protests over an economic crisis.

Candice van der Merwe met Mr Hariri at a private resort in the Seychelles in 2013 when she was 20. The married father of three, who is Lebanon's most powerful Sunni politician, was 43.

When asked why Mr Hariri gave her the money, she responded that they had begun a relationship. "I have also been told I have a very engaging personality," she said, in court documents obtained by the 'New York Times'.

The gift would have remained secret were it not for South African tax authorities, which froze Ms van der Merwe's assets, asking her to explain the change in her fortunes. She filed a suit against them for $65m in damages.

As Mr Hariri gave her the money between his two terms in office, he does not appear to have broken any laws. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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