Lebanon's Central Bank audit progress: Wassim Mansouri's push for transparency

Lebanon Economy
2023-08-23 | 23:45
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Lebanon's Central Bank audit progress: Wassim Mansouri's push for transparency
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Lebanon's Central Bank audit progress: Wassim Mansouri's push for transparency

MPs who visited Banque du Liban (BDL) confirm that the Acting Governor, Wassim Mansouri, is ready to request "Alvarez & Marsal" to complete the forensic audit of the accounts of the Central Bank of Lebanon. 

This comes after it was discovered that the former Governor, Riad Salameh, withheld information and data - of extreme significance, according to what follow-up sources told Nidaa al-Watan  - from the company under the pretext of banking secrecy.

This article was originally published in and translated from Lebanese newspaper Nidaa al-Watan. 
Deputies who met with Mansouri and his deputy governors, Michel Douaihy, Mark Daou, and Waddah Sadek, stated that the conditional offer presented by the Central Bank of Lebanon to lend the state $1.2 billion over six months is no longer valid. 

Consequently, according to concerned sources, many of the state's needs are without resources or appropriations, which might lead to an extremely critical situation, possibly escalating into a social explosion in two to three months at most. 

The deputies emphasized the urgency of swiftly lifting the banking secrecy from the accounts of the "Optimum Invest" company by the Special Investigation Commission and taking direct action to disclose information about its owners and beneficiaries of public funds and Central Bank of Lebanon funds without legitimate justification.

Wednesday saw further reactions to the forensic audit, with news that the Lebanese Forces party is preparing a "massive report" to be presented before the Public Prosecution Office of the Court of Cassation and the National Anti-Corruption Commission regarding the data mentioned in the "Alvarez & Marsal" report. 

MPs Ibrahim Mneimneh, Yassin Yassin, and Firas Hamdan requested forming a parliamentary investigative committee with certain powers of investigative judges regarding the irregularities that occurred in the Central Bank of Lebanon.

The head of the Finance and Budget Committee, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, hastened to call for a session following Monday dedicated to discussing the preliminary report of the forensic audit.

Legally, it became clear that the review presented by the General Prosecutor of the Cassation Court, Judge Ghassan Oueidat, contained a series of inaccuracies and serious errors in the figures, particularly in the reserve numbers and the confusion between losses of the Central Bank of Lebanon and the state. 

This is in addition to categorizing debts to the state in the electricity sector and others, which are not debts as long as they have not passed through laws in the Parliament. 

The news was leaked that the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Appeal of Beirut, Ziad Abou Haidar, will not accept what was requested of him by Oueidat regarding the investigation into part of what was mentioned in the forensic audit report.

He requested to step down, as he did in 2022, and the file is supposed to be referred to Judge Raja Hamoush, who previously requested the arrest of Riad Salameh before being transferred to Judge Charbel Abou Samra, who delayed it, which was revealed by Judge Helana Iskandar. Thus, the file was withdrawn from him. 

Legal experts confirmed that the Financial Public Prosecutor, Judge Ali Ibrahim, should also step down because he is a member of the Special Investigation Commission that overlooked many of the violations and suspicions of financial crimes mentioned in several reports. 

As for the Acting Governor, Wassim Mansouri, he is heading to request "Alvarez & Marsal" to complete the audit by providing it with what Salameh had withheld from it. He also promised local and international judicial authorities to disclose everything that Salameh withheld to complete the investigations. 

For further revelations, Mansouri will hold a press conference and reveal more numbers that Salameh had previously concealed.

Western sources (OCCRP) told Nidaa al-Watan that the new sanctions imposed on Salameh this month have raised the total value of frozen assets associated with him and his associates to at least $200 million. 
 
The newly frozen assets include luxury properties in London and apartments on Wall Street, according to an analysis of property records and a leaked French investigation file obtained by journalists.

Three apartments in the upscale Manhattan area of New York will be frozen, along with commercial and residential properties in Britain, including a luxurious apartment overlooking the Kensington Garden in one of the most expensive and luxurious places to live in London, as well as ten other apartments in Chelsea and others in the British capital. 

Seizure orders were also issued for five commercial buildings in London, Birmingham, and Bristol. In the investigations, several of these real estate properties are under different names, including Raja, Riad's brother, and his son Nady, and some deals took place through fake companies registered in tax havens.
 

Lebanon News

Lebanon Economy

Press Highlights

Lebanon

Central Bank

Audit

Wassim Mansouri

Alvarez & Marsal

Riad Salameh

Banque Du Liban

Investigation

Assets

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