'Respectable corrupt officials working hard for Lebanon,' says ambassador to UK

7 August 2020, 18:53 | Updated: 7 August 2020, 18:55

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Lebanon's ambassador to the UK has told LBC "corrupt, respectable people" are working hard to overcome the country's challenges following the Beirut Port explosion.

Eddie Mair challenged Rami Mortada on corruption in the country, saying people have been protesting about perceived cronyism in Lebanon since October 2019.

He then asked who would be accountable for the devastating blast in the Lebanese capital, which has left more than 150 dead and over 5,000 injured.

"Do you think the system, as currently constituted in Lebanon, can get to the truth?"

Rami Mortada replied, saying Lebanon needed a "reset" following the Beirut tragedy and that a thorough investigation would be carried out to hold prosecute those who are responsible.

"Obviously there is a confidence gap," Mr Mortada said, "we have to admit it and we have to work towards bridging this gap."

The Lebanese ambassador's comments left Eddie Mair confused
The Lebanese ambassador's comments left Eddie Mair confused. Picture: LBC

He added: "This accident, despite its tragic nature, could be an opportunity to start tackling this confidence gap, but it needs to start with a transparent investigation to identify the perpetrators."

Eddie then quizzed the ambassador on corruption, asking him how many corrupt Lebanese officials he had encountered in his job.

"I think one should not generalise," Mr Mortada replied, before being interrupted by Eddie who said, "I'm being specific."

The ambassador responded: "I encounter corrupt people, but corrupt, respectable people and people who are working hard for their country."

A confused-looking Eddie then asked how they could be both corrupt and working hard for their country, to which the ambassador repeated his view that they can be "respectable people."

"Some are respectable, some are corrupt," he said, "that is for a court of law to establish who is corrupt and who is not. It's not for me."