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Aridi: Billions can be collected from properties

Aridi said fees and taxes collected by the government from occupiers of these properties have soared to LL15 billion.

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s public works and transportation minister said Tuesday that billions of dollars in taxes and fines can be collected from over 1,000 violators of state-owned seaside properties along the Lebanese coast.

“A massive Lebanese wealth is in the hand of few persons under political protection,” Minister Ghazi Aridi told a news conference.

“Political parties, the judiciary and security forces should take action now to save seaside properties.”

Aridi said fees and taxes collected by the government from occupiers of these properties have soared to LL15 billion from LL4.7 billion a few years ago.

“But this is just a fraction of the revenues that can be collected,” he said.

During the news conference the ministry launched a report detailing the violations recorded in various Lebanese areas.

The law stipulates that all seaside land is public property. But thousands of resorts, residential and commercial buildings have been set up illegally on the coast, particularly during the Civil War between 1975 and 1990.

High-profile politicians are rumored to be among illegal occupants of the state-owned land.

While some resorts have been given permission by the state to occupy seaside properties, many have violated their agreements, Aridi said, adding that most of the violators have illegally reclaimed land from the sea or exceeded areas designated to them.

The minister also urged Parliament to finalize discussing a 2006 proposal aiming to settle the violations.

“This is a necessary step to help resolve the problem and identify the sums taxable by the state,” he said.

Violations on a costal railway line are under investigation by a private company, the minister said, vowing to remove violations to allow a potential rebirth of railway services discontinued during the Civil War.

The railway sustained considerable damage during various wars, with services gradually phased out. The last railway operations – cancelled in the late 1990s – were trains carrying cement shipments from factories in Chekka, north Lebanon to Beirut.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 07, 2012, on page 5.

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