Returning home to Beirut after a short business trip to Dubai, I realized that local journalists are still bickering through their articles about the latest shooting that took place in Sodeco's nightclub Maison Blanche (White House) on February 26, 2010. I also noticed, during my business lunches and several social outings, that the Lebanese community abroad in the UAE are just as confused and misinformed about the incident as the locals in Beirut were, due to the outrageous amount of rumors revolving around the social networks on the internet and the local newspapers.
The quarrel started when Antoun Sehnaoui, the CEO of a well established bank requested from Raymond Bechara, the owner of the club, Maison Blanche (White House) to ask a Mazen El Zein to leave the premise. Where as other versions of the incident assert that it was Mazen el-Zein who approached Raymond, demanding from Mr. Bechara, one of the partners of the nightclub not to permit Antoun Sehnaoui the entry to the White House and have him escorted outside.
Raymond Bechara refused by replying that he cannot expel nor kick out any of his guests for no valid reason. He explained his stance as he made it clear that having friends clubbing at Maison Blanche (White House Nightclub) is like hosting them at his home. Different sources including eye-witnesses and Sehanoui's media office confirmed that Mazen el-Zein had provoked Antoun Sehnaoui when he flicked him with his middle-finger in the club and in front of the public. Obviously, if this was the case, it is but normal for Sehnaoui, a well respected CEO and businessman to feel insulted and humiliated triggering a major confrontation between both ends and causing the tension to escalate. Only then and in the midst of this chaotic situation, Antoun's bodyguards felt the threat for their employer facing Mazen's disciples raging towards them, the fight turned into a shooting mishap. In a matter of seconds, according to eye witnesses, the situation erupted as the bodyguards fired their guns toward the ceiling in order to disperse the crowd and take control of the situation. The unfortunate outcome resulted in injuring Mazen el-Zein along with several other partygoers.
There are always two sides to any story, Mazen telling his version of the incident to the media, stating that Antoun knew he was going to be at the Masion Blanche (White House) that night, insisting that it was intentional and that he was personally targeted and attacked on purpose. The other side of the story coming from Antoun Sehnaoui's family and close friends argue that such an intelligent CEO and successful businessman was not raised to perform any criminal acts and had nothing to do with the shooting himself nor ordered his bodyguards to do so, such accusations have no grounds and are based on financial interests, taking advantage of Antoun's financial status. The rumors continue to escalate as some say Antoun Sehnaoui ordered his bodyguards to attack where others confirm that his men drew their guns first before Mazen's armed friends threatened to do so.
Both businessmen have a history of conflict as Mazen el-Zein previously worked for a finance company affiliated with Antoun's Bank and it is said that he had committed several violations including fraud against the company, which led to his departure from the company. The issue was taken up to court and solved in a civilized manner to Mazen's advantage.
The rumors revolving around the shooting has left everyone wondering why such an incident has gained so much attention and has become a political issue, led by Tayyar party and handled personally by General Michel Aoun against Sehnaoui, aiming at damaging his reputation and creating crisis for the Bank.
The highly educated CEO found himself in a situation not to be envied for. He travelled outside the country until the truth is revealed as his bodyguards have been called in by the court for questioning. Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said the case would be followed "with extreme severity without any intervention from any party."
Both men have had their share of attacks and negative stereotyping on especially on the Social Media networks such as Facebook, blogosphere and Twitter to name the least. Sadly, the Lebanese people are practicing a low standard of communication between each other, labeling each one of the rivals with indecent names, such as Mazen El Zein being a narcotics dealer and Antoun Sehnaoui a spoiled gangster, to name a few.
The case now has turned into a political one after General Michel Aoun chose to use it during his latest propaganda speech to rally the crowds against violence in Lebanon and the return of the "Militia Mentality" such as Antoun Sehnaoui, and unfortunately for the Lebanese public, not one solid story backed up by witnesses and the truth behind this incident has surfaced, yet everyone seems to keep on building up the matter with various shapes and forms.
Shouldn't we all take a step backwards, refrain from practicing the game of building more and more rumors and let the law handle this issue to unveil the truth and punish the guilty.