Investigations into Riad Salameh's European assets

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2023-03-19 | 13:09
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Investigations into Riad Salameh's European assets
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Investigations into Riad Salameh's European assets

In a report titled "Lebanon...Powered by Salameh's network," the French newspaper Le Monde published an investigation into the Governor of Lebanon's central bank, Riad Salameh. The article shows the Governor's foreign assets, from luxurious real estate properties in Paris to Swiss bank accounts and investment companies in Luxembourg.

Le Monde mentioned Salameh's "opaque network," saying it helped him amass a fortune worth hundreds of millions of euros in Europe. This network is suspected of transferring tens of millions of euros from Lebanon's central bank to Europe for money laundering.

However, according to Le Monde, one of the key pieces of evidence is a 2002 contract between Lebanon's central bank and a company called Forry Associates, registered in the British Virgin Islands and owned by the Governor's brother Raja Salameh.

Under this contract, banks and financial institutions paid commissions to Forry Associates each time they bought or sold bonds or securities to Banque du Liban.

Therefore, according to the UAE's The National newspaper, Forry Associates raised suspicions among European judges, especially since the Lebanese investigation did not find any evidence of the company's existence or a list of its clients.

According to Swiss authorities, Le Monde presented figures indicating that around $330 million was transferred from BDL to Forry's account at HSBC Bank in Switzerland between 2002 and 2015. Of this amount, $250 million was reportedly transferred to Raja Salameh's personal account at HSBC Bank in Switzerland, with millions more deposited in other Swiss accounts.

Swiss investigation also found that $40 million was transferred from Forry's and Raja Salameh's accounts to Riad Salameh's accounts.

Le Monde also claims that Raja Salameh held over $207 million from commissions in five Lebanese banks, including BankMed, Bank Audi, Bank Egypt & Lebanon, Credit Libanais, and Saradar Bank. European judges obtained statements from these accounts during a visit to Lebanon in December 2022.
However, Salameh denied allegations of embezzlement related to funds in his possession, claiming that the funds were commissions paid by bond buyers and not from BDL.

He has also stated that his wealth results from legal investments made from assets he owned before becoming Governor in 1993.

Despite the ongoing legal proceedings, $330 million is nothing compared to losses suffered in the Lebanese financial sector, which amounts to over $70 billion.

Moreover, many leaders and officials are undoubtedly involved.

So, will Lebanon witness a new phase of name revelation through anti-corruption efforts, which was one of the main reasons for the collapse in Lebanon?

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