Late July, a French television channel aired a half-hour investigative report into the dealings of Lebanese businessman Omar Harfouch. The program sought to uncover where Harfouch--who prides himself on his lavish lifestyle, glitzy villa in a French resort town and substantial investments in France, Switzerland and the Ukraine--had amassed such an impressive fortune. During his inquiry, the program’s reporter had apparently discovered that Omar and his brother, Walid Harfouch, had misled others on several occasions about where their funds had originated. One notable example of such false claims on Harfouch's part, said the reporter, was in connection with UTV, a company of which Harfouch claimed to be the sole owner. Not true, said the reporter, upon discovering evidence to the contrary. Moreover, it seems that Harfouch was less than honest as well when writing his own autobiography, which was found to be ridden with inaccuracies. The reporter also discovered that a former business partner of Harfouch's also maintained that he had made money illegally on at least one occasion. Mr. Hares Yousef, a Ukrainian of Syrian origin who had served as an advisor to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, revealed to the reporter that he had investing some $300,00 in a magazine business venture with Harfouch. When Yousef, however, subsequently sought his portion of the profits upon leaving the partnership, Harfouch refused to hand over Yousef’s rightful share of the deal.
Meanwhile, the Harfouch brothers bask in their “self-made” wealth, a fact demonstrated in their love for luxury items, most notably, custom-made Bentley automobiles. Last year, the Harfouch brothers once again found themselves amidst scandal when they accused the Ukrainian government of being behind the torching of one of their beloved Bentleys with a mysterious Molotov cocktail attack in October.
Known for their interest in influence with Ukrainian leadership to wield favor and strengthen their business dealings, Omar’s brother, Walid Harfouch (also the publisher of the Ukrainian “Paparazzi” tabloid) apparently tried to blackmail authorities shortly before the nation’s critical elections. The magazine blatantly tried to tarnish the Yushchenko name by publishing photographs of the current president’s son, Andriy Yushchenko, at a beachside resort with his girlfriend while on holiday in Turkey.
Many, however, saw through the fog of Harfouch business interests and shady dealings, the program revealed, bringing to light one of the worst scandals yet with the Harfouch name at its center. The brothers’ accusations that Ukraine authorities were responsible for the torching subsequently resulted in widespread popularity for “Paparazzi,” whose sales have increased exponentially since the incident--despite an investigation into tax evasion slapped on the magazine around the same time.
The brothers, in the meantime, reap the benefits of skyrocketing sales and have since sought compensation for the car from the United Kingdom.