Former Lebanon Central Bank Chief Investigated for Money Laundering in Germany

Prosecutors in Germany have launched an investigation into Riad Salameh, the ex-governor of Lebanon’s central bank, over allegations of money laundering and other financial crimes. Alongside his brother and other suspects, Salameh faces charges including forgery, money laundering, and embezzlement. The Munich public prosecutor’s office confirmed the issuance of an arrest warrant for him on Tuesday.

Salameh, who held the position of central bank governor from 1993 to 2023, is under scrutiny for purportedly transferring substantial sums from Lebanon’s central bank for personal gain, at the expense of the Lebanese state. The investigation has also shed light on allegations of funds being laundered abroad, with part of the money reportedly channelled through a British Virgin Islands-based company before being invested in European real estate, notably in Germany.

In a joint effort with authorities from France and Luxembourg, German officials have seized three commercial properties in Munich and Hamburg valued at approximately 28 million euros. Additionally, shares in a Dusseldorf-based property company worth about 7 million euros have been secured.

Salameh’s tenure as central bank chief ended in July amidst mounting allegations and international scrutiny. Despite initially being celebrated for his role in Lebanon’s post-civil war reconstruction, Salameh has since faced severe criticism, both domestically and abroad, for his alleged involvement in Lebanon’s financial crisis, which began in 2019.

The crisis, marked by the devaluation of the Lebanese pound and the depletion of citizens’ savings, has led to widespread unrest and condemnation of the country’s ruling elite, including Salameh. Many financial experts attribute the crisis to decades of corruption and mismanagement within Lebanon’s political establishment.

Salameh has vehemently denied the accusations against him, insisting that his wealth stems from his previous career as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch, as well as from inherited properties and investments. However, his denials have not halted the pursuit of justice, with France issuing an arrest warrant and Interpol issuing a red notice for his apprehension.

The downfall of Salameh, once hailed as a symbol of Lebanon’s economic recovery, underscores the complexities and challenges facing the country’s financial system. The investigation into his alleged misconduct serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of financial malpractice and corruption within the highest echelons of power.

Despite the ongoing investigations and legal proceedings, Salameh remains resilient in his defence, maintaining his innocence amidst mounting pressure and scrutiny. The outcome of the investigations, both in Germany and internationally, will undoubtedly shape the narrative surrounding Lebanon’s financial crisis and the pursuit of accountability for those implicated in its downfall.

As Lebanon continues to grapple with the aftermath of its financial collapse, the pursuit of justice for alleged perpetrators like Salameh represents a crucial step towards restoring faith in the country’s institutions and rebuilding its shattered economy.

In conclusion, the investigation into Riad Salameh’s alleged involvement in money laundering and other financial crimes reflects a broader reckoning with corruption and mismanagement within Lebanon’s financial sector. The outcome of the investigations will have far-reaching implications for Lebanon’s future and the pursuit of accountability for those responsible for its economic turmoil.

Tags : Lebanon