Beyond boundaries: Banque du Liban audit report in the global spotlight

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2023-08-14 | 02:25
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Beyond boundaries: Banque du Liban audit report in the global spotlight
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5min
Beyond boundaries: Banque du Liban audit report in the global spotlight

The report of the forensic audit of the accounts of Banque du Liban (BDL) has been widely distributed on a local, Arab, and international scale.

This article was originally published in and translated from Lebanese newspaper Nidaa al-Watan.
However, Nidaa Al-Watan sources said the embassies of the countries in the Quintet Committee (United States, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar) had obtained the report, in addition to the embassies of dozens of other countries, especially those where investigations are being conducted into suspected financial crimes involving the former BDL governor, Riad Salameh, and several of his associates implicated with him.

Legal sources have confirmed that the Salameh case is taking on a global dimension, given the expansion of investigations into Salameh, his brother, his son, his assistant Marianne Howayek, and others in suspicions of money laundering through investments and bank accounts in a relatively large number of countries, including countries known as "tax havens" or tax shelters.

Furthermore, these sources stated, "International stakeholders will delve into reading the report not only to examine the crimes proven by European courts and reinforced by US sanctions, but also to trace other financial entities to determine their extent of involvement with Salameh in suspicious operations related to manipulations, commissions, and questionable transfers."

Sources also revealed that "commissions of the company Forry are relatively known, and the investigation is currently ongoing into the commissions of another brokerage company named 'Optimum,' led by Tony Salameh. Clear indications in the forensic audit point to what should be investigated and suspected."

As for the Lebanese bankers, the same sources affirmed that "information is accumulating in Europe and the United States about bank presidents and their managers who may be part of the network of suspicious operations, which have involved embezzlement of public funds and depositor funds, generating billions currently hidden in international banks and tax havens, in addition to various investments and real estate holdings."

Furthermore, the sources anticipated "careful consideration of the information gap that the company Alvarez & Marsal has mentioned, accusing Salameh of not fully cooperating under the pretext of banking secrecy. They will also scrutinize lists that contain blank spaces for names without complete disclosures about beneficiaries or counterparties, encompassing the operations, manipulations, and questionable transfers Salameh was orchestrating."

Additionally, the sources revealed "intensified international pressure to compel the Lebanese Parliament once again to amend the banking secrecy law, under international standards, and to delve deeper into disclosures related to the political and banking system accused of Lebanon's collapse and enriching themselves at the expense of public funds and depositors."

The sources also do not rule out the possibility of summoning Lebanese bankers before European judges, as was the case with Marwan Kheireddine.

However, information obtained by Nidaa Al-Watan confirmed that several have shown cooperation recently, providing valuable information in France, Luxembourg, and other European countries.

This collaboration comes in exchange for promises of relative immunity from severe sanctions that could be imposed when trials commence.

Locally, The Head of the Judicial Affairs Authority at the Justice Ministry, Judge Helana Iskandar, who is investigating the former BDL governor, confirmed that she would formally request the delivery of the Alvarez & Marsal report on Monday to use it as evidence for the crimes she has alleged against Salameh.

She then stated, "As long as I have the investigation file of the former governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, things will follow their natural judicial course."

She further added, "If he is not informed of the session date on August 29th, I will request, three days before the session, to serve him a notice by pasting it, either at his residence or through the local mukhtar."

However, local legal sources ruled out any Lebanese judge's involvement from now on in attempts to exonerate Salameh and his associates from the financial crimes attributed to them, especially after the issuance of the US sanctions and the publication of the scandalous report.
 

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