Lebanese PM reportedly paid $16 million to South African model

Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri has reportedly paid more than $16 million to a young South African model in 2013, according to The New York Times.

This is coming on the heels of a backdrop of protests at home against an increasingly difficult economic situation, a case which weakens the prime minister.

Saad Hariri’s setbacks continue to accumulate as The New York Times on 30 September, revealed that the Lebanese Prime Minister paid more than $16m to Candice Van der Merwe, a South African model he met in the Seychelles, according to legal documents.

The 20-year-old woman claims to have had a relationship with the head of government after meeting him in a luxury hotel in 2013.

The case is making headlines in South Africa and Lebanon as the young woman, a professional “swimsuit model”, has been engaged in a fight with the South African tax administration for several years. As early as 2013, articles in the local press had mentioned “a gift from an Arab admirer“, which at the time was still unidentified.

At the head of his political party Courant du futur, the Lebanese Sunni leader was not Prime Minister when he sent money to Candice Van der Merwe. His first term ended in 2009, while the second began in 2016, but his situation remains precarious as demonstrators have been marching in Beirut since September to denounce a deterioration in living conditions.

In recent years, the Lebanese economy has stuttered, with growth of just 0.2% in 2018 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and even though the government has adopted a so-called “austerity” budget for 2019, the government’s debt is still very high.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister refused to answer questions from the American newspaper. But, shortly after the article was published, he reacted publicly, implying that parties hostile to his political camp are behind a “campaign” to prevent him from carrying out the necessary reforms in Lebanon.

“Whatever campaigns they launch against me, however much they may say, write or do, I will continue to work and I will not stop,” he said.

Son of the businessman and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, assassinated in 2005, Saad Hariri is considered one of the richest men in Lebanon.The Forbes ranking of the world’s billionaires attributes it a fortune of about $1.5 billion in 2018.

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