According to Reuters, prosecutors from Europe have travelled to Lebanon this week to investigate potential financial misconduct by Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon’s central bank, and his brother Raja.
The cross-border money laundering investigation is being conducted jointly by prosecutors from Germany, France, and Luxembourg, and centres around suspicions that the Salameh brothers moved over $300 million from the central bank illegally between 2002 and 2015.
The investigation is in line with a separate inquiry being conducted in Switzerland. Riad Salameh and his brother have denied the allegations, with Riad claiming to be a scapegoat for Lebanon’s severe financial crisis in 2019. In March, a Lebanese judge accused Riad Salameh of illegal gain in a separate but relevant investigation.
While no indictments have been brought forth yet, authorities suspect that the brothers used some of the funds to purchase properties in France and other European countries. Lawyers for the Salameh brothers are currently contesting the confiscation of their assets in France. In Europe, an amount of $130 million in property and accounts have been blocked due to its association with the legal case, as reported by both European representatives and French court records.
European prosecutors who visited the site were shown bank records of money transfers that Raja Salameh had conducted through Lebanese banks, according to those with knowledge of the situation.
Officials from Europe stated that it was the first time they had gotten sight of the transaction records, which could help follow the course of the money. Until now, the Lebanese investigators who were performing an accompanying investigation had not given up on these discoveries, they also noted.
Ghassan Oueidat, Lebanon’s leading prosecutor, did not answer a query concerning which documents had been examined by the European prosecutors.
Riad Salameh is the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon and has held this position since 1993. Salameh is a well-known figure in Lebanon and has been involved in the country’s financial and economic policy for several decades. He is also considered a close ally of the Lebanese political elite.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File