Thursday, January 14, 2010

Self-proclaimed Lebanese billionaire nabbed over fake notes


KUALA LUMPUR: Controversial self-proclaimed billionaire Elie Youssef Najem, who pledged RM1bil to the National Cancer Council (Makna) in 2006, was caught with allegedly US$66mil (RM220mil) in fake money.

City commercial crime unit division chief ASP Izany Abdul Ghany said the 50-year-old Lebanese national had been renting a room in a four-star hotel in the Bukit Bintang area here for a few days when the incident took place.

“He had apparently tipped one of the cleaners with a US$500 note. The woman, ecstatic over the windfall, went to a money-changer nearby to convert it to ringgit.

Elie ... is alleged to have tipped a hotel cleaner with a US$500 note
“Instead, she got a shock when told it was fake. She complained to her supervisor who then alerted the police,” he said.

A police team led by Insp Ridhwan Ani raided Elie’s room and discovered a leather bag containing 60 “US$1mil” bills, 60 “US$100,000” bills and 40 “US$500” bill which added up to US$66.2mil.

There are no such denominations in US currency. Izany said the highest legal banknote used currently in the United States is the US$100 note. The US$500 note was issued in 1934 and still has value, but can only be traded in the US Federal Reserve. The US$500 Federal Reserve Note features a portrait of President William McKinley.

When questioned at the Dang Wangi police station, Elie did not divulge any information as to where he got the money or what he intended to do with it, Izany said.

“When asked why he was renting a hotel room when he owns an apartment in the city, he said he staying there because it was convenient for him as he is attending a court hearing in a case against him,” he said.

It is understood that Elie was charged in the Kuala Lumpur Magistrates Court on Jan 8 under Section 417 of the Penal Code for cheating.

It is learnt he was charged for being involved in cheating over office supplies sales in 2005. As a result of the pending case, his passport has been witheld.

Izany said police were investigating the case under Section 489(c) of the Penal Code for possession of counterfeit notes which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine.

Elie has been remanded for 14 days until Jan 23 to facilitate in investigations.

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