by Adam Taylor
Abdel Wassim El Whani is a Qatari billionaire who appears to live in Paris, and he loves to show off his wealth by giving away extravagent gifts.
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The world first heard from Whani last month, when a video appeared on YouTube that showed him giving away 1 million euros to a homeless Romanian woman. Later, a video of him buying as many iPhone 5s as he could before throwing them away appeared. Another recent video shows Whani giving away a Lamborghini to two young men he had just met.
These videos have been viewed in total almost 2 million times, and Whani has become something of a star. And people are desperate for his favor. When a blog hosted by Le Monde picked up the story this week, the site was flooded with comments – almost all desperately begging for financial help from Whani.
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But who exactly is Whani? The videos, shot by production company JisaMedia, claim that Whani is “Qatari billionaire who has decided to distribute his immense fortune to strangers in need,” but very little is actually known about the man – a Facebook page exists, for example, but was only created in September, and a number of personal Facebook profiles exist but do not look entirely genuine (they appear to use stills from the video for profile pictures, for example).
The Observers blog at FRANCE 24 has done some investigating, and spoken to a Qatari official who says he does not recognize the name or the face. One suspicion is that the videos – which have raised a lot of hope for desperate people – could be a publicity stunt.
The video’s producers are keeping quiet.
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“A lot of people have asked us who is behind the videos, and if it’s true or not… I’m not going to say, we want it to remain ambiguous,” Jisamedia creator Ange Jisa told FRANCE 24