Anti-corruption examining magistrates based in Paris were officially entrusted with the investigation against the governor of the Banque du Liban Riad Salamé, announced this Friday, July 16, the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office. This news comes following 2 complaints for money laundering in an organized gang and criminal association filed by the Swiss foundation Accountability Now, on the one hand, and, on the other, by the NGO Sherpa and the Collective of victims of fraudulent practices and criminals in Lebanon
Similar complaints have also been filed in Switzerland and Great Britain. Others could still follow in the United States.
This decision follows a preliminary investigation which may have identified certain anomalies in the accounts and assets of the governor of the Banque du Liban. This new procedure could therefore allow the investigation to be extended, notably at the international level within the European framework, but also to transmit requests for information to the Lebanese judicial authorities. Eventually, assets could even be seized or frozen.
On the governor’s side, he could benefit, just like the complaining parties, from information concerning the proceedings in progress and the facts complained of.
In addition to the governor of the Banque du Liban, his son, brother and nephew are also targeted. They are accused of acquiring an enormous heritage financed by complex procedures and lacking in transparency.
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.