Accounts of Lebanon’s former central bank governor, Riad Salameh, alongside those of his close relatives and associates, have been frozen on orders of the interim central bank governor, Wassim Mansouri. This move comes in the wake of sanctions placed on them by the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.
The decision emerged after the Special Investigation Commission, responsible for combating money laundering and terrorism financing, convened. Those named include Salameh’s son Nady, brother Raja, associate Marianne Hoayek, and former partner Anna Kosakova.
Beyond freezing their assets in Lebanese financial establishments, the directive also waives bank confidentiality for the said individuals, facilitating investigations by judicial authorities. Salameh, once celebrated as the bulwark of Lebanon’s fiscal stability, now faces scrutiny both domestically and abroad. His policies have been criticised for precipitating Lebanon’s economic downfall, marked by the plummeting value of the Lebanese pound and soaring inflation.
Recent findings from a forensic audit by New York firm, Alvarez & Marsal, disclosed Salameh’s prolonged misconduct, including $111 million in “illegitimate commissions”. This audit, a demand of the international community and the International Monetary Fund, only underscores their waning confidence in Lebanon’s economic management.
Salameh’s tenure as the central bank governor from 1993 until 31st July is under intense scrutiny, with arrest warrants in both France and Germany probing the alleged misappropriation of $330 million from the Lebanese central bank during his tenure. Charges of embezzlement and financial misdemeanours have been laid in Lebanon against Salameh, his brother, and Hoayek.
Despite the mounting allegations, Salameh refutes all claims, pledging to contest the sanctions. He informed Reuters that some of his assets were already impounded in earlier investigations. March 2022 witnessed the freezing of roughly 120 million euros worth of Lebanese assets across various European nations, with Salameh implicated in the case. Furthermore, assets seized by the French judiciary were transferred to the Lebanese state in July.
Given the vacancy in the central bank’s governance after Salameh, Wassim Mansouri, the first vice governor, now officiates as the acting governor, evidenced by his signature on Monday’s statement.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File