Model Candice van der Merwe's R200m gift was from Lebanon's prime minister: Report

02 October 2019 - 13:11
By Staff Reporter and Reuters
MODEL CITIZEN International swimwear model Candice van der Merwe at a previous appearance at the Cape Town High Court in a clash with SARS.
Image: Picture DAVID HARRISON The Times MODEL CITIZEN International swimwear model Candice van der Merwe at a previous appearance at the Cape Town High Court in a clash with SARS.

South African model Candice van der Merwe was reportedly gifted $16m (about R245m) from the prime minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri after they met for a romantic getaway in the Seychelles according to the New York Times which saw the court documents.

Sowetan has previously reported that the model has been facing legal issues since she was flagged by Sars for the deposit which at the time amounted to R200m which she had claimed was from an "unknown Arab admirer".

Hariri was not in office at the time of the alleged affair and monetary transfer.

In 2018, City Press reported that Van der Merwe planned to sue finance minister Tito Mboweni for R1bn over "damages to her reputation". According to the publication she alleged that she was harassed over the donation.

Hariri, who is married, has an estimated $1.9bn net worth. However, according to the New York Times, his businesses have recently faced economic turmoil.  

Although Hariri did not comment on his relationship with Van der Merwe he told the New York Times that the "negative" reports about him would not deter his work as prime minister.

“Whatever the campaigns they launch against me and whatever they say, write or do, I will continue to work,” he said on Tuesday. “It is true that we [Lebanon] are going through a difficult economic situation and therefore we have to take bold decisions. Every time we make an accomplishment, someone criticises it.”

Meanwhile, according to Reuters protests have flared up in Lebanon due to the worsening economic conditions.

Protesters blocked several main roads in the Lebanese capital, some setting tyres and rubbish bins on fire, as several hundred people gathered in the heart of the city on Sunday to protest against corruption and deteriorating economic conditions.

Demonstrators carrying signs and flags marched along a main road, chanting "Down with capitalism" and "Leave!" amid heightened security in the area, while others stood outside parliament.

Protesters gathered in at least three other areas in Lebanon, including a main highway which leads to the Syrian capital Damascus, the state news agency said.

Lebanon, heavily indebted, faces financial strains linked to a slowdown in capital inflows needed for the funding of the government and the import-dependent economy. Years of low growth have also weighed on the economy.

Shrinking remittances of foreign currency in recent years from Lebanese abroad have also put pressure on the central bank's international reserves.

Lebanon won pledges of $11bn in investment linked to long-delayed reforms aimed at putting public finances on a sustainable path at a conference in Paris last year.

The funds pledged at that conference by France and other donor states and institutions have yet to be released.

"We went down to demand to live with dignity. We want to say to the MPs, the ministers, and all the ruling class that if they don't want to give back what they stole, they should at least stop stealing so the people can live," one protester told Reuters.

Financial strains have surfaced in the real economy recently, with gas stations staging a one-day strike earlier this month because they have been unable to secure their hard currency needs at the official exchange rate. Millers have also complained.

The central bank said on Tuesday that it would issue a directive to banks regulating the provision of foreign currency to import fuel, wheat and medicine.

The Lebanese pound has been pegged against the dollar at a level of 1,507.5 pounds for more than two decades.