The noose is tightening around the powerful governor of the Banque du Liban (BDL), Riad Salamé. After Switzerland, French justice is in turn interested in its important heritage. The boss of the central bank has become, over the course of the crisis, one of Lebanon’s most hated public figures. Close to the Hariri family clan, he is suspected, like other senior officials in the country, of having quietly transferred large sums abroad during the October 2019 uprising, despite draconian restrictions. adopted by banks.
The National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) has opened a preliminary investigation for “criminal association” and “organized money laundering,” AFP said. This investigation follows two complaints received in April by the PNF. The first had been filed by the Swiss foundation Accountability Now, according to the newspaper “Le Monde”. The second came from the NGO Sherpa, which fights against serious financial crime, and the “Collective of victims of fraudulent and criminal practices in Lebanon”. Which represents a group of savers who believe they have been despoiled during the crisis that has hit the country since 2019.
Survey in Switzerland
The governor of the Lebanese central bank has already been targeted for several months by an investigation in Switzerland for “aggravated money laundering in connection with a possible embezzlement of funds to the detriment of the Bank of Lebanon”.
The complaints in France accuse him – as well as his brother Raja, his son Nadi, his nephew and a close collaborator at the Lebanese central bank, Marianne Hoayek – of having fraudulently built up a rich heritage in Europe. The associations are calling for the opening of investigations into the massive flight of Lebanese capital since the start of the crisis, the acquisition of luxury real estate assets disproportionate to the income of the people concerned, but also on the responsibility of financial intermediaries, who are said to be gone through tax havens and have resorted to nominees.
Over $ 2 billion
According to the complainants, “the global heritage” of Riad Salamé “today exceeds 2 billion dollars”. “His identified assets in Luxembourg reached $ 94 million in 2018”, indicates the complaint, which is based in particular on the revelations of the Lebanese site Daraj.com and the investigations of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
Riad Salamé disputes these figures. According to “Le Monde”, he explains that “his personal assets amounted to 23 million dollars (19 million euros)” when he took office in 1993 and that “the growth of his assets, since, results investments that do not contravene the obligations associated with his duties ”. His lawyer, Me Pierre-Olivier Sur, estimated that it was “mainly a communication operation, even a political operation”, denouncing “excesses which demonstrate manipulation”.