More Questions Raised About Damascus Entourage As Archdiocesan Trustee Threatens Bishop
Eight men were chosen by Metropolitan Philip to represent him to the June 2009 meeting of the Synod of Antioch. Of the five who spoke Arabic, two were laymen, Walid Khalife and Fawaz El Khoury. Besides being Archdiocesan Trustees, the two share at least one other thing in common: past trouble with fraud.
The Khalife E-Mails
Questions regarding Walid Khalife have come to the fore, not because of his past, but because of present actions. Khalife has been sending disturbing and threatening emails to Bishop Mark of Toledo, among others, in the wake of the ongoing controversy concerning recent documents posted on the Archdiocesan website.
As a participant in the recent Synodal meeting in Damascus, Khalife has defended the suspicious documents as authentic decisions of the Synod, even after the Patriarchate itself posted the only authentic decision on its own website. On June 23rd, during the height of the document crisis, Khalife wrote to Bishop Mark of Toledo demanding that the Bishop accept the two documents as the authentic texts and post the false documents on his diocesan website. Bishop Mark did not post the false documents - but he did cite one of Khalife’s email in a letter to his clergy. The Bishop wrote:
“Sadly, in the confusion and one of our Board of Trustees members sent me the following message based on the forgery:
“Dear Bishop Mark, Good morning, I am sending you these faxes from the Synodal Resolution in Arabic & English. And as a Bishop you should obey these resolution and not translate them the way you want to do. In fact it is so un-realistic, that you do not know the Arabic language to speak and write the language. I hope you obey the Synodal Resolution as they are on the web site of Archiodese , in English & Arabic. So if you want to put anything on your web site it should be the resolution issued by Igantius IV on June 17, 2009 and nothing else. I hope you obey that resolution of The Holy Synod, i would like to hear your response as a auxillary Bishop on this matter Thank you Walid Khalife”
The matter did not end there, however.
As questions began being raised on the internet as to how the two fraudulent documents came to be accepted by Englewood as authentic texts (when eight representatives of the Archdiocese were present during the meeting, many of whom spoke Arabic, including Khalife) Khalife grew increasingly belligerent - not only towards the Bishop, but to others. Having expressed concern to the Archdiocese (with a copy to Khalife) after reading the Bishop’s clergy letter, Fr. Patrick Reardon, noted Antiochian writer and priest of Chicago’s All Sain'st parish received the following letter from Khalife:
“Dear Father Patrick, If you do not agree of me with the disrespect of Auxillary Bishop Mark, so you should not answer my emails. If you are a good father and a good Preist, you should stand faithfully behind Met Philip and Bishop Antouns and you should not take sides on the dirty emails that has been going between others. i really disrespect and i will never obey Mark as a Auxillary Bishop in Toledo and this person should go back where he was a born and a person like Mark who lives on a house of Glass should not throw stones on other people and specailly when he said the word Immigrant.The only wish i have to face in my life is to face him and show him a good lesson, how a person should behave .i hope my dreams will come true and i will teach him a good lesson how to be a good person.Walid Khalife”
What a “good lesson” means was perhaps clarified by Khalife in an email later that same day to Reardon’s former Parish Council President, Mr. Stephen Kellar:
“Your ignorance and stupidity does not change the facts. I believe that you are not an Antochian Orthodox person to know the facts. The Holy Synod agreed in his 24 th of Februray and affirmed the decision of the Auxillary Bishop on June17th, You are a person that like sto play with the fire and i hope we can settle this issue face to face one day because you dont know who i am and i wont let anybody talk to me and emailing me with that stupid answer. You should go to the shit house and cover yourself with the lies. I have been loyal to my church in Lebanon since i was born and i am since loyal to my church St. George in Troy since i came to this country in the late 70’s and i am still loyal to our Archiodecse and thousand percent loyal to our Met. Philip You and other stop using the internet and be loyal to your faith. One day you are going to see the devil and regret what you have been doing. And you dont know what is devil, i will assure you and make sure you will meet him one day. Walid Khalif.”
Nor did the emails stop there. In the past week almost a score of people across the Midwest - clergy and laity alike - have received almost daily emails from Khalife, full of insults, invective and threats, directed mainly at Bishop Mark. Copies of these, and others, have been sent to OCANews.org by Mr. Khalife himself.
Who Is Walid Khalif?
If Khalife were simply an angry parishioner, such emails would be inappropriate, but little more. But Khalife is an honorary member of the Board of Trustees of the Archdiocese, an intimate of Metropolitan Philip, and someone who has served, on multiple occasions over the past decade, as a representative of the Archdiocese at Synodal meetings. Sources in Damascus recently related to OCANews.org that the recent Synod meeting “quickly went “downhill” as members of the Holy Synod” attempted to express disagreement with Metropolitan Philip’s positions" Furthermore, they reported that “Some of the Arabic-speaking members of the North American “delegation” went so far as to disparage, accuse and even threaten members of the Synod and their flocks.” In the light of Khalife’s recent emails towards an American Bishop, such claims seem less and less extraordinary.
And then there is the matter of Khalife’s past, which adds color to his threats. According to a recent posting on Antiochianinfo.org,
“In 1995, Walid, his fellow shareholders, and Goldcorp, Inc. (their company) were charged in a 28-count indictment involving money laundering of drug trafficking proceeds, making false tax returns, and firearms violations.  The Detroit Free Press ran a story  stating that “[according to an affidavit submitted by U.S. Customs and IRS agents, the businesses are run by three brothers -- Fadi, Jamal and Walid Khalife -- who were “first identified as part of the Detroit narcotics underworld during the late 1970s and early 1980s.” According to the same article, the money laundering business for which the federal government seized the company’s assets (which seizure was upheld by the courts) involved various drug rings, including the notorious Young Boys Incorporated heroin ring,  which controlled 40% of Detroit’s heroin traffic during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.  In a plea agreement designed to reduce the other, more serious charges that required the government to prove intent, Walid pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government.  In the brothers’ unsuccessful appeal of the guilty plea, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals observed that the Department of Treasury had observed the defendants making cash deposits totaling more than $12 million at three different Michigan banks in a single day in amounts just less than $10,000, in violation of federal currency transaction reporting rules.”
Today Walid Khalife remains active as the “...President of Goldcorp, Inc. and former President of K & A Gold and Diamond Center, Inc. (both Michigan corporations..” At a Fall 2006 celebration of the 40th anniversary of Metropolitan Philip’s consecration to the episcopacy, held at St. George’s Cathedral in Detroit, Khalife’s company “donated gold keychains inscribed with Metropolitan Philip’s name in Arabic to all guests.” (You can read the December 2006 Word magazine article here.)
Who is Fawaz El Khoury?
If one wonders how Khalife was chosen to represent the Archdiocese, Khalife is not the only member of the Board of Trustees’ Damascus entourage with problems in his past. The only other Arabic-speaking layman to attend the Synod has had problems as well. According to the same posting on Antiochianinfo.org:
“Fawaz El Khoury, a resident of the Westborough, Massachusetts area, is variously described as a real estate investor and a textiles recycler and exporter.  Fawaz is the President, Secretary, and Treasurer of CMRK, Inc., a company involved in textile recycling and export, having its address at 16 Railroad Dr., Northborough, MA 01532.  In 2005, CMRK, Inc. joined a $120,000 settlement of an action brought by the Connecticut Attorney General’s office  arising out of its contract with Holy Trinity Community Centers LLC, a purported charity which had claimed that clothing and shoes donated in drop boxes  would be given to people in third world countries. In reality, Holy Trinity sold the donated goods to CMRK which then exported them at a profit. The charity claimed that the proceeds from sales would go to drunk driving reduction and breast cancer research charities, but the Attorney General’s office found that the bulk of the funds was consumed by the individuals involved in the “charity.”
You can read more about Fawaz El Khoury here.
Shortly upon El Khoury’s return from Damascus last week, Metropolitan Philip appointed him to serve on the four person nominating committee for the 2009 Archdiocesan Board of Trustees - the committee that is charged with screening candidates for the Board of Trustees at the upcoming Convention in Palm Desert.
A Modest Proposal
Neither Khalife nor El Khoury - nor any member of the official delegation - have spoken publicly about what happened in Damascus. None have offered any explanation of how the inauthentic documents came to be or how they came to be signed by the Patriarch. (Lynn Gabriel, wife of entourage member Fr. Antony Gabriel, has offered her impressions and an explanation. Read that story here.) It seems to many (including recent calls on this site) that an official, independent investigation is warranted given the confusion and damage to the credibility of the Archdiocese the inauthentic texts have caused. It would only seem reasonable that if the Metropolitan wishes to discover the answers to any of the above questions, his chosen entourage would seem to be a good place to start.
And the threats have to stop.
- Mark Stokoe