Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave $16 million to a South African bikini model according to court documents obtained by the New York Times.
Documents revealed that he gave Candice van der Merwe the money and other extravagant perks including two luxury cars in 2013 when the pair were allegedly in a romantic relationship.
The transaction did not violate any Lebanese or South African laws and some people argued that since Hariri was not in office at the time, that he was free to do as he pleased with his money.
Read the article well ..it does not confirm anything, it just mention what the model assumed .— SaudiRM 🇸🇦 (@RmRauna34) October 1, 2019
On the other side, in 2013 Saad Al Hariri was not a Prime Minister...If the donation was true, he is free to spend his money as he wishes..its non if our business...#سعد_الحريري pic.twitter.com/qPl1PXp12m
But the news has also triggered angry reactions at a time when Lebanon is facing an economic state of emergency that led to recent protests. Even though no direct ties were established between Hariri's gifts and the country's financial troubles, some say his actions make him an unfit leader.
You expect from a leader who pays 16 million $ for a model to know how to run your country? #سعد_الحريري— Liberty Lebanon (@libertylebanon) October 1, 2019
The Lebanese PM is now being criticized for spending such a large sum while employees working within his business empire were deprived of their salaries.
Lebanese PM whose “bankruptcy” affected many sectors in #Lebanon from football to media (recently closing Future TV resulting in 800 families without income), has paid $16 Million to a “girlfriend” model as reported by The New York Times: https://t.co/I86HkG7shY #سعد_الحريري— Tania El Khoury (@taniaelk) October 1, 2019
Naturally, the Internet reacted with ridicule and humor but others reading between the lines saw a conspiracy brewing.
Scandals like these don’t just leak .. #سعد_الحريري there is a reason for the timing, the ones behind this campaign are the same people behind the campaign against Riyad Saleme— Toni Mouawad (@tonimouawad) September 30, 2019
Someone wants to start a riot, and I guess we are smarter than that
Hariri didn't address the allegations specifically but responded indirectly in a tweet that highlighted government achievements, stating, "whatever campaigns they launch against me, whatever they say, write or do, I will continue to work and won't stop. It's true we're going through a difficult financial situation and that's why we have to make bold decisions."
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