Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 31 October 2020

Haifa Wehbe’s former manager under investigation for allegedly stealing millions from her

The event marks the latest chapter of a legal battle gripping the regional entertainment industry

Lebanese singer Haifa Wehbe has found regional success in music, film and television. MBC
Lebanese singer Haifa Wehbe has found regional success in music, film and television. MBC

The former manager of Lebanese singer and actress Haifa Wehbe has been arrested on suspicion of fraud.

Mohamed Waziri, a former business and romantic partner of the celebrity, is in custody in Cairo for up to four days, pending investigations of whether he embezzled amounts reportedly ranging from $1 million (Dh3.6m) to $4m from Wehbe's bank account.

Commenting on the news, the Agoul Ahwak singer posted an Instagram story on Thursday with the caption 'Alhamdulillah' (Praise be to God) over a blank screen.

Waziri has yet to make an official comment on his detainment.

The legal measure marks the latest chapter of a highly publicised, month-long conflict that has gripped the Arab entertainment world.

In a twisting story that could match any of the television dramas Wehbe has starred in over her three-decade career, the saga includes love, betrayal, allegedly stolen cash, court dates and an apparent sham marriage.

So what happened?

While it is unclear for how long Waziri handled Wehbe's business affairs, reports that their professional relationship evolved into a romance date back as far as 2018.

In that year, Waziri landed a small role in La'net Karma (The Curse of Karma), a Ramadan drama starring Wehbe. In 2019, he produced Wehbe's yet-to-be-released film Ashbah Europa (Ghosts of Europe).

According to Wehbe's Egyptian lawyer, Yasser Kantoush, their business relationship soured after Wehbe discovered suspect transactions of up to $4m from her bank account by Waziri, whom she granted power of attorney to handle her financial affairs.

"[Waziri] transferred funds from her account to his account, according to documents, official papers and records," Kantoush said in an interview with MBC Trending in May. "Soon more lawsuits will be filed against him."

Kantoush added that discussions with Waziri to return the money proved unsuccessful.

A fake marriage?

The simmering situation exploded into the public sphere in late May when Waziri launched a legal case in the Egyptian family court stating that he and Wehbe were legally married.

At the same time, a purported marriage certificate was shared on social media (it is not clear who posted the document), forcing the star to publicly deny the relationship and threatening Waziri with legal action of her own.

"The claimed proof of marriage by the defendant M.W is not true," she posted on May 25. "At the end of this case, I will take legal measures against this defamation and will await the outcome of this investigation and the judicial ruling."

Wehbe kept fans up to date with the case by reporting on the first day of the court session. According to her June 16 post, it didn't go according to plan for Waziri, with the marriage contract in question unavailable to the court.

"His lawyer did not show any official document and even witnesses had said, 'the marriage contract was stolen'. The judge replied that the theft was not the prerogative of the family court and before the judge could make a ruling the lawyer asked for the session to be postponed," she wrote.

She followed up with another post that same day stating that upon the resumption of the session, Waziri's lawyer presented a photocopy of the alleged document and asked for another postponement in order to locate the real marriage contract.

While Wehbe hasn't launched her defamation suit against Waziri yet, she did, however, fulfill her promise of legal action. Waziri's arrest comes after the star reportedly travelled to Cairo to assist investigators with the embezzlement case.

A fake Covid-19 diagnosis

The latest move is part of what has already been a difficult year for Wehbe.

As well as denying her alleged marriage to Waziri, the singer was also forced to quash rumours she had been diagnosed with Covid-19.

On March 20, a furious Wehbe went on social media to slam a report by Asia News stating she was recovering from the virus in hospital.

"Can you name the hospital?" she said. "I want to pay a visit and tell them that a story was published quoting social media users. And the newspaper is confused if it is a rumour. Since it was not possible for the agency to confirm the authenticity of the news, I ask you not to publish it and so the news doesn't become fake news."

Updated: July 23, 2020 07:20 PM

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