Internet scandal : 7 suspects linked to the illegal networks arrested

Lebanon's Ogero denies links to illegal internet networks
Lebanon’s Ogero denies links to illegal internet networks

Seven suspects in the illegal internet case have been arrested and warrants have been issued against four others, National News Agency reported .

It added that General Prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud ended on Wednesday the investigations in the case

The Judge also requested that investigation be permitted against telecom sector employees linked to the case.

The criminal investigations are now examining how the internet equipment was allowed entry into  Lebanon without obtaining the necessary licenses from the concerned authorities, Hammoud told NNA.

Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb revealed last month that around four illegal internet stations have been proven to exist in the mountainous terrains of al-Dinnieh, Ayoun al-Siman, Faqra and Zaarour.

Suspects involved in the case and believed to be associated with the state-owned OGERO were arrested on Monday over possible links to the networks.

Reports speculated that OGERO chief Abdul Moneim Youssef was involved in the scandal.

Early in March, the parliamentary media committee  which is headed by Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah unveiled what it described as a “mafia” that are taking advantage of internet services by installing internet stations that are not subject to the state control.

The owners of these stations are buying international internet bandwidth with nominal cost from Turkey and Cyprus which they are selling back to Lebanese subscribers at reduced prices.

 Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil announced  earlier this month that the state was losing $200 million every year as a result of the illegal internet providers.

But according to analysts Hezbollah owns the largest illegal telecom network in the country . In May 2008, Hezbollah occupied the western part of Beirut and tried to occupy Mt Lebanon when the cabinet of former PM Fouad Siniora decided to remove the party’s telecommunications network.

Marwan Hamadeh who was the Telecom Minister at the time revealed in leaked cables that Hezbollah with the help of the Iranians installed an illegal fiber optics telecom network throughout Lebanon.

Analysts are of the opinion that Hezbollah is more worried about the security of its own network than the loss of revenue for the state .