BEIRUT, Nov. 30 -- An independent member of the Lebanese Parliament demanded an investigation Wednesday into allegations of widespread political corruption and accused lawmakers and politicians of receiving bribes. The appeal by Najah Wakim, a staunch foe of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, came almost a week after the National Assembly lifted the immunity that had blocked the arrest of one of its members, Yehya Shamas, who is accused of drug ties.
Shamas was arrested the next day. 'The involvement of politicians in drug trafficking is a serious matter, but there is also a more dangerous issue, which is political corruption and bribery,' Wakim said. Some influential government officials allegedly granted loans to politicians of $1 million (639,700 pounds) to buy shares of Solidere, the $1.82 billion company (1.164 billion pounds) charged with rebuilding Beirut's war-damaged downtown, he said. Wakim said the uninsured loans were granted by Hariri-owned Banque Mediterranee, allowing politicians to make up to $600,000 in profits (383,820 pounds) as Solidere shares went up from $100 (63.97 pounds) to $160 (72.35 pounds). 'This is a kind of bribery, and the general prosecution can check the names of Solidere subscribers,' he said. He added that 73 percent of the contracts awarded in 1993 for reconstruction work had violated the law, thus making their benefits illegal. Wakim also urged investigations into false declarations by banks regarding annual profits and into several real estate companies that he labeled phony. He accused high-ranking officials of being behind the dumping of 16, 000 barrels of toxic waste across Lebanon: 'Hasn't this dangerous issue not been disclosed because those who are involved are big heads in the country?' Wakim said he was ready to provide authorities with the information he has collected to 'start cleaning our political life.'