The smugglers' cartel: Meet the most dangerous class in Lebanon
26 July 2021
By: Alaa Khoury
(This article was translated from Arabic)
In every crisis, you find a specific group waiting for the opportunity to pounce on it, to turn its life course upside down and collect what was available from the money in the phase of chaos, fluctuations in the dollar exchange rate and the absence of state control.
During the time of war, many of these people appeared under the category of “smuggling.” Some of them today are state officials or have money that cannot be burned by fire and some of them emigrated to accumulate their wealth there, which they acquired at the intersection of chaos and war opportunities.
Today, the scenario is repeated with people who, before the crisis, were just small traders or unemployed people looking for a "free profession". Until someone came to guide them to the lifeline that would lift them from the world of poverty to the paradise of money and business.
It is the smuggling cartel that managed, within a year, to withdraw billions from the Lebanese state under the cover of subsidizing the basic goods and needs of the people. This was done with the aim of stealing them and turning them into merchandise capable of being smuggled abroad and neighbouring countries.
These people benefited from Caesar’s law and its repercussions on Syria, to exploit the two sides of the border. They are working to store all the materials available for the various industrial, agricultural, food and health sectors and sell them to Syrian merchants and businessmen. These people need the Lebanese market, in light of the prevention of importing these materials before the regime in Syria is under siege.
This network, which follows a complex organizational structure starting from the top of the pyramid to the small employee who ships the goods, is in constant contact with some of the people who are in charge of managing illegal crossings in Bekaa and Akkar.
This also includes official employees, who are able to get the goods out through the legitimate crossings, and there are many. Their names had appeared on various social sites and they were the ones that were able to conclude deals worth thousands of dollars and turn into influential figures in their societies, while supported by some power parties.
This cartel, which the inspection sees as a file heavy with corruption, is difficult for anyone to touch because it is protected and has built its system in a complex way. So, if the stone of over-complexity of the entire system is rolled it would mean naming one person and neglecting the other.
It does not help as long as the authorities concerned with naming or disclosing that system, know the danger of what has been smuggled into Syria and from there to other countries. Even the legitimate crossings in Lebanon were a safe haven for these people to smuggle as many goods as possible, from fuels to medicine and food commodities even.
The subsidized cow and chicken feed and agricultural manure were smuggled abroad, with the prior knowledge of participants with the newly formed cartel.
It is true that the government of President Hassan Diab contributed to the expansion of this cartel, but the tweets of some of those affiliated with the “Hezbollah-Amal Movement” duo axis from MPs and political activists confirm that there is a great overlap.
An overlap between the forces with the system that put businessmen who move their tools, to circumvent decisions the support imposed by the Diab government and the work to extract the available dollars in its favour.
This cartel continues, if the president appoints Mikati or apologizes during the formation of government, as long as the partisan and political forces that control power exist. All that may change is some whose cards have been "burned" will be replaced by new faces.