Rafic Baha El Deen Al-Hariri (November 1, 1944 – February 14, 2005, Arabic: رفيق بهاء الدين الحريري), was a business tycoon and the Prime Minister of Lebanon from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 until his resignation, 20 October 2004.
He headed five cabinets during his tenure. Hariri dominated the country's post-war political and business life and is widely credited with reconstructing Beirut after the 15-year civil war.
Hariri was assassinated on 14 February 2005 when explosives equivalent to around 1000 kg of TNT were detonated as his motorcade drove past the St. George Hotel in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. The investigation, by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, into his assassination is still ongoing and currently led by the independent investigator Daniel Bellemare. In its first two reports, UNIIIC indicated that the Syrian government may be linked to the assassination. According to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news investigation, the special UN investigation team had found strong evidence for the responsibility of Hezbollah in the assassination. Hariri's killing led to massive political change in Lebanon, including the Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
Hariri was born in a modest Sunni Muslim family, along with two siblings (brother, Shafic and sister Bahia) in the Lebanese port city of Sidon. Hariri attended elementary and secondary school in his city and pursued his business administration studies at the Beirut Arab University.
Rise to wealth
In 1969, Hariri established Ciconest, a small subcontracting firm, which went out of business soon. He then went in business with the French construction firm Oger for the construction of a hotel in Ta’if, Saudi Arabia, the timely construction of which brought him in good graces with King Khaled. Hariri took over Oger, forming Oger International, which became the main construction firm used by the Saudi Royal family for all of their important developments. As a result, only a few years after his first contract with King Khaled, Hariri had become a multi-billionaire.
Beginnings in philanthropy
Having accumulated his wealth, Hariri started a number of philanthropic projects, including the building of educational facilities in Lebanon. Hariri became progressively more embroiled in politics. His appeals to the U.N. and services as an emissary to the Saudi Royal family won him international recognition on the political stage for his humanitarian efforts but also slowly caught him in the web of Lebanese politics.
In 1982, he donated $12 million to Lebanese victims of the 1978 South Lebanon conflict and helped clean up Beirut's streets with his company's money. After the conflict, he acted as an envoy of the Saudi royal family to the country. He laid the groundwork that led to the 1989 Taif Accord, which Saudi Arabia organised to bring the warring factions together. Taif put an end to the civil war and paved the way for Hariri to become prime minister.
Hariri returned to Lebanon in the early 80s as a wealthy man and began to build a name for himself by making large donations and contributions to various groups in Lebanon. He was implanted as the Saudis' strong man following the collapse of the PLO and the paucity of any viable Sunni leadership in the country, as well as a response to the rising power of the Shiite militia Amal. In 1992, becoming prime minister under Syria's watchful military occupation of Lebanon, he put the country back on the financial map through the issuing of Eurobonds and won plaudits from the World Bank for his plan to borrow reconstruction money as the country's debt grew to become the largest per capita in the world.
On 14 February 2005 Hariri was killed, along with 21 others, when explosives equivalent of around 1,000 kg of TNT were detonated as his motorcade drove near the St. George Hotel in Beirut. Among the dead were several of Hariri's bodyguards and his friend and former Minister of the Economy Bassel Fleihan. Hariri was buried along with his bodyguards, who died in the bombing, in a location near Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque.
A 2006 report by Brammertz has indicated that DNA evidence collected from the crime scene suggests that the assassination might be the act of a young male suicide bomber. A UN backed tribunal issued four arrest warrants to members of the Hezbollah. Hezbollah blames the assassination on Israel.
Hariri was considered, mainly by his opponents, as the principal actor in the widespread corruption that plagued Lebanon during the Syrian occupation. His wealth grew from less than $1 billion dollars when he was appointed prime minister in 1992, to over $16 billion when he died. The Company for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut's Central District, known as Solidere, in which Hariri is the primary shareholder, expropriated most property in the central business district of Beirut, compensating each owner with shares in the company, were worth as little as 15% of the property's value. That Hariri and his business associates profited immensely from this project was an open secret.
Hariri and his protégés were not the only beneficiaries of this spending spree. In order to secure support from militia chieftains, such as Walid Jumblatt and Nabih Berri, and pro-Syrian ideologues that Damascus had installed in the government, Hariri allowed kickbacks from public spending to enrich all major government figures. For example, a contract to build a section of the coastal motorway was awarded to the firm of Randa Berri, the wife of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, at a price estimated to be at least $100 million in excess of construction costs. Contracts for the import of petroleum were awarded to the two sons of President Elias Hrawi.
As result of the growing criticism and popular discontent with Hariri's policies, the government banned public demonstrations in 1994 and relied upon the Army to enforce the decree.
In return for a relatively free hand in economic matters, Hariri cooperated with Syria's drive to consolidate its control over Lebanon. Under the guise of "regulating" the audiovisual media, the government placed control of all major television and radio stations in the hands of pro-Syrian elites. Supporters of Michel Aoun were also perpetually harassed and detained.
His is mainly credited with the widespread corruption that followed the war and the crippling damages done to the economy, with the public debt rising from $2.5 billion to over $40 billion and economic growth slowing from 8% to –1% during his time as prime minister.
From : www.wikipedia.org