Fugitive businessman Ziad Takieddine faces suit over unpaid legal fees

Lawyers who helped release Takieddine from Lebanese jail after he fled France say he owes them $37,000

FILE PHOTO: Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine is seen during an interview with Reuters at his offices in Paris April 19, 2013. France has opened a judicial investigation into allegations that former President Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 election bid won illicit funds from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the public prosecutor's office said on Friday. An official at the prosecutor's office said an inquiry had been opened after allegations made by a Franco-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, himself under investigation in a separate affair of arms sales to Pakistan in the 1990's.    REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

Lawyers who helped release fugitive international businessman Ziad Takieddine from a Lebanese jail now plan to sue him for failure to pay their fees.

It is the latest twist in years of high-profile legal troubles for Takieddine, 70, a French-Lebanese middleman wanted in France for his suspected involvement in the alleged Libyan funding of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign, an ongoing case that has rocked French politics.

"It has been more than one month and we have yet to be paid," Haitham Ezzo, one of two lawyers who plan to sue the businessman, told The National. "We plan to file a lawsuit against Takieddine on Monday. We have already sent him a warning."

Takieddine told French investigative magazine Mediapart in 2016 that he helped transfer millions of dollars in Libyan money to finance Mr Sarkozy's campaign, but he retracted his claims in November.

In a separate case, a French court sentenced him to five years in jail in June for his role in securing millions of euros in arm sales commissions to fund the unsuccessful presidential campaign of Edouard Balladur in the 1990s, a sentence which he has appealed.

A well-connected businessman with ties to heads of states and the French elite, Takieddine is from a prominent Druze family. He managed to evade the French legal system and fled to Lebanon in June, giving up a life of luxury in Paris to return his family home in the Chouf mountains.

Since his return Takieddine has been arrested twice by Lebanese authorities.

In October he was imprisoned in the southern city of Saida for two weeks following a dispute with the lawyer Hani Mourad.

Mr Mourad told The National he had not by been paid by Takieddine in a case involving charges he declined to disclose.

Takieddine was released from prison with the help of Mr Ezzo and another lawyer, Imad El Khazen, who now plan to sue him.

"After we helped to free him and prove his innocence he did not pay our dues," Mr Ezzo told The National.

The lawyers say Takieddine owes them $37,000.

Takieddine told Paris-Match magazine last month that he had €900 million ($1.09 billion) frozen in Lebanese banks.

The businessman's current lawyer Sharif Al Hosainy denied the allegations against his client. "Ziad Takieddine would never fail to pay anyone for their work," he told The National.

Takieddine was arrested for a second time earlier this month when Lebanese authorities, who were questioning him in a separate case involving financial fraud, received an Interpol notice for his arrest in the case related to Mr Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign.

General Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat ordered Takieddine's release after two days in custody, but confiscated his passport and barred him from travel.

Although Lebanon does not extradite its citizens, Takieddine could be prosecuted in Lebanon for crimes perpetrated in France, should Paris request it. A Lebanese legal source said that he might still face extradition if French politicians intervene.

“He cannot be extradited unless there is a political decision at a higher level,” the source said. “So far it seems French politicians are not interested in bringing him back.”