The President of the Republic indicated on Thursday on his Twitter account that the last deadline granted to the Banque du Liban to submit the documents necessary for the forensic audit of its accounts expires in just a few days.
This reminder comes as the Banque du Liban indicates that it had submitted a first batch of documents, on April 9, to the finance ministry, which should itself hand them over to the Alvarez & Marsal cabinet in charge of the procedure.
The Banque du Liban is also regularly accused of withholding information for this audit, which is nevertheless deemed necessary to unblock aid from the international community and negotiations with the international monetary fund. This help is all the more necessary as the country of cedars is facing the most serious economic crisis in its contemporary history with a recession that reached nearly 29% in 2020 according to some reports.
For the time being, some documents requested by the cabinet are still missing while the Banque du Liban has requested a new deadline in order to gather the necessary information.
An audit necessary to unlock international aid
Negotiations with the IMF quickly stumbled over the capacity of the Lebanese authorities to carry out the reforms necessary for the release of international aid as well as on the issue of quantifying the losses of the financial sector. The Lebanese authorities estimate that its losses would reach 241 trillion Lebanese pounds on the basis of an exchange rate of 3600 LL / USD. , that is to say approximately 80 billion dollars, which the local banks refuse via the association of the banks of Lebanon or the Bank of Lebanon itself.
The association of banks in Lebanon has thus activated its relays present in parliament. via the parliamentary finance and budget committee. The latter, where some shareholders and representatives of local banks are present, only quantified the financial losses at 81 trillion Lebanese pounds on the basis of an exchange rate of 1507 LL / USD. .
Henceforth, this encryption of the accounts of the Banque du Liban should be carried out by the firms Alvarez & Marsal for the forensic audit and by KPMG and Oliver Wyman for the normal audit . First approached to conduct the forensic audit, the Kroll cabinet, specializing in the matter was dismissed following pressure from the president of the chamber Nabih Berri, considering the company linked to the Hebrew state .
In parallel, the association of banks in Lebanon presented a rescue plan rejected by the IMF and the Lebanese authorities, providing for the sale of part of Lebanon’s gold and the fixed-term session of public goods. This plan is also rejected by specialists who believe that the sale of public goods could only be done by selling them off because of the current circumstances.
Some sources are now citing losses for the financial sector exceeding $ 100 billion, estimating that Lebanon would now require a stimulus package of 63 billion dollars but only 26 billion at most are available . According to these same sources, all Lebanese banks are now insolvent.
Thunderclap, the firm of Alvarez & Marsal announces its withdrawal from the forensic audit procedure , November 20, 2020 after the Banque du Liban refused to answer 57% of the questions asked , under the pretext of the credit and currency code or even legislation related to banking secrecy, plunging Lebanon into uncertainty. Indeed, this audit is now considered essential for obtaining assistance from the international community. The Ministry of Finance or that of justice considered that the contract did not violate the texts in force.
The cabinet will announce its return to the procedure at the end of December, following the adoption and adoption of a law suspending banking secrecy regulations for a period of one year after the Governor of the Banque du Liban Riad Salamé refused to transfer the documents deemed necessary by Alvarez & Marsal for such a procedure.
An audit where the role of the governor of the Banque du Liban could be called into question
a more usual 2018 audit report which had been revealed despite its confidential nature had revealed that the governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salamé, had abused unilateral declarations of fiduciary profits, 6 billion in 2018 alone , Maybe $ 30 billion.
Some sources even believe that gross currency reserves are already negative due to losses accumulated over the years, which also means that people’s deposits with the Bank of Lebanon simply no longer exist.
These hypotheses are all present because despite the official character of the Banque du Liban, this institution does not respect the regulations on the right of access to information yet adopted by the Lebanese parliament. The forensic audit was aimed precisely at removing these suspicions.
The Banque du Liban is in fact at the heart of a state scandal. This is the very tool that made it happen. The establishment did not play its role of regulator of private banks on the one hand and even encouraged them to mismanage or invest in defective financial products such as public debt or even its own CDs with the prospect of winning. simply as much time as possible.
A “highly political” audit
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri had never made a secret of his opposition to the forensic audit even if today, following his appointment, he would accept it in principle.
However, he has, on several occasions, recalled his support for the governor of the Banque du Liban, one of his relatives, who thus enjoys, according to him, total immunity.
Thus, some observers fear that the latter will choose to bury the procedure in order to protect certain interests including his own, the Hariri family owning 10% of the shares of all Lebanese banks and having therefore benefited from the various measures of the Banque du Liban in their favor.
They note that this audit could constitute further proof of the involvement of senior Lebanese leaders in various financial transfer operations from which they have benefited to the detriment of the state with the complicity of certain local banks.
This audit therefore complicates the relationship between the Presidency of the Republic, General Michel Aoun and the Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri who are currently negotiating the distribution of the various ministerial portfolios within a cabinet which is nevertheless necessary in order to unblock aid from the community. international.
Riad Salamé in the legal turmoil
A group of activists based in London has accused the governor of the Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salamé and his relatives by name, of corruption and laundering of dirty money.
The group called Guernica37 transmitted this report to the British police last year as well as to the National Crime Agency. This report was prepared at the request of Lebanese civil society activist groups.
A preliminary investigation is also said to be underway to verify the information published. It will then be a question of opening a formal investigation.
Riad Salamé could thus have embezzled several hundreds of billions of Lebanese pounds, reinvested in financial assets in Great Britain, accuse the authors of this report who also transmitted it to the judicial authorities of other European countries.
Riad Salamé, who has read this report believes that these are false allegations.
This report accuses the governor of the Banque du Liban in particular of having provided the benefit of a certain number of his relatives, including his former son-in-law, a lawyer. Recourse to the services of the latter was then compulsory in order to proceed with over-the-counter purchases of Lebanese banks.
The Guernica report37210105-Lebanon-Corruption-redacted-copy-1
Charges of embezzlement already rejected by Riad Salamé
As a reminder, Riad Salamé had categorically rejected the accusations of the Swiss authorities who had asked for details concerning certain transfers . He said he had transferred the sum of $ 240 million only abroad since 2002.
Some sources indicate that, in addition to the governor of the Banque du Liban himself, his brother Raja and his assistant Marianne Hoayek would be targeted by the investigation.
In addition to the Minister of Justice Marie Claude Najem who transferred the file to the Public Prosecutor, the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun and the outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab, would also have been informed of Bern’s request.
For his part, Riad Salamé – supported by the Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri – denied being at the origin of such transfers just like his brother or his assistant.
This information comes when he had already been accused, last April, by Daraj Media, of being at the origin of such movements of funds.
The governor of the Banque du Liban Riad Salamé, his brother Raja and his close advisor Marianne Hoayek would be accused of holding accounts for several hundred million dollars on the basis of documents provided during the Panama Papers scandal.
Thus, Marianne Hoayek would have opened an account for the benefit of Riad Salamé for more than 187 million dollars within the Banco Allado Panama bank and another account within VP Bank Tortola BVI for 150 million dollars.
In addition, a company belonging to Rami Makhouf, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar el Assad would have transferred to the Zurich account of the governor of the Banque du Liban 55 million euros. He is also said to have an account of 80 million euros at the First National Bank.
With his brother Raja, he would have more than 446 million dollars invested mainly abroad. As for Marianne Hoayek, for whom 340 million dollars would have been placed under her name, she is a senior official at the Banque du Liban.
These figures were revealed when the question of the renewal of the mandate of the governor of the Banque du Liban in 2016 before the affair was hushed up, underlined Dima Sadek.
The journalist was then summoned in May 2020, she was summoned by the Internal Security Forces following a complaint “for undermining the reputations of banks and the prestige of the economy” by the Governor of the Banque du Liban Riad Salamé.
An investigation opened since in Switzerland for money laundering
Since then, the governor of the Banque du Liban would have seen his assets frozen in Switzerland following the discovery of documents detailing the movements of funds between Lebanon and Switzerland which would have been operated by Riad Salamé and his brother. The men have been accused of money laundering since 2002.
The Swiss authorities thus note that 300 million dollars would have been transferred on the basis of a contract dated April 6, 2002 between the Bank of Lebanon (BDL) and the company Forry Associates Ltd, registered in Tortola in the Virgin Islands and having a office in Beirut, whose economic beneficiary would be Raja Salamé, thus highlighting an embezzlement of funds from the Banque du Liban for the benefit of the latter.
Commissions in the amount of 247 million dollars would have been paid on April 6, 2002 in return on the personal account of Raja Salamé. 207 million were then paid to beneficiaries of accounts in the banks Bankmed, Banque Misr Liban, Crédit Libanais, Banque Audi and Banque Saradar as “personal expenses”. The governor of the BdL himself is said to have received more than $ 7 million from Forry Associates’ HSBC account. On April 5, 2012, Riad Salamé allegedly asked the Zurich bank to transfer Lebanese treasury bonds in the amount of 153 million dollars to the Swiss Audi Bank in Beirut “with a personal signature”, leading the Swiss authorities to monitor the movements of these accounts, confirming according to investigators their suspicions of embezzlement.
10 million dollars would have even been paid into personal accounts belonging to Riad Salamé for a fictitious company, “Westlake Commercial Inc”, whose accounts are also hosted by the Swiss bank Julius Baer
The governor of the Banque du Liban would have 50 million dollars in Switzerland as well as many real estate.Swiss_File-2
Another problem, the company in question would be unknown in Lebanon and would not have acted within the framework of the contract, indicate certain legal sources.
And 2 complaints filed in France
Since April 2021, 2 complaints have been filed against the Governor of the Banque du Liban, one by the Swiss association Accountability Now and the other by the Sherpa association supporting a Franco-Lebanese collective. They accuse Riad Salamé, who also holds French nationality, of embezzlement and laundering of dirty money.
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