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Lebanon: Billionaire Najib Mikati tasked with forming government after Hariri demotion to millionaire status

Lebanon: Billionaire Najib Mikati tasked with forming government after Hariri demotion to millionaire status image

President Michel Aoun has tasked billionaire businessman Najib Mikati with forming a new Lebanese government, ousting Saad Hariri after he lost his own billionaire status with the recent decline in his net worth.

Aoun said Hariri’s demotion to the ranks of millionaires threatened his ability to form a cabinet that can fulfil the aspirations of Lebanon’s political leadership to turn the country into a beautiful, affluent haven free of politicians who cannot properly manage corruption.

He said Hariri’s inability to manage his own personal, financial and political failings boded ill for his ability to manage the entire country’s failings.

“For his fortune to decline in these times, and his scandals being aired in the newspapers, meant I had no choice but to seek the help of a person with vast knowledge and experience in the field of public embezzlement, particularly since the population has fallen on hard times,” Aoun said in a statement.

Mikati’s appointment as premier is his third, though it is unclear now how much wealth remains in the country that can be distributed to corrupt patrons or political allies.

His office declined to comment on whether heading the government while facing embezzlement allegations in a case that was brought in 2019 counted as a conflict of interest, but observers said they expect the relevant paperwork in the case to disappear, perhaps in a routine explosion like last year’s port blast.