Hardly a week goes by without a new twist in the transnational financial investigation targeting Riad Salamé, the irremovable governor of the Banque du Liban (BDL). After being charged in his country for illicit enrichment on March 21, the 71-year-old man finds himself again placed in the spotlight by European judicial authorities.
France, Germany and Luxembourg have seized 120 million euros in assets as part of an investigation targeting Mr. Salamé and people around him. “The main investigation is directed against five suspects accused of money laundering. They are believed to have misappropriated public funds in Lebanon for amounts of more than 330 million dollars [environ 296 millions d’euros] and 5 million euros, respectively, between 2002 and 2021”said Monday, March 28, the European Agency for Judicial Cooperation (Eurojust), without revealing their identity.
The heritage of the great Lebanese treasurer, in office since 1993, is at the heart of investigations opened in at least five European countries – Germany, France, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Their cooperation, facilitated since autumn 2021 by Eurojust, has unraveled part of the web of holdings, accounts and properties held by the boss of the BDL and his entourage across Europe, the value of which is estimated at several hundred million dollars.
“Acceleration of investigations in Europe”
The former investment banker claims to have made a fortune thanks to investments made, completely legally, from the assets of 23 million dollars which he held when he took the helm of the BDL. Swiss justice, which opened a preliminary investigation in January 2021, suspects him of having, with his younger brother Raja, embezzled more than 330 million dollars in commissions on the sale of BDL financial securities between 2002 and 2015, under a brokerage contract with Forry Associates LTD, owned by Raja Salamé.
Swiss magistrates suspect that the money was transferred to Switzerland, then to bank accounts held by Raja Salamé in Lebanon, before being used to buy properties in Europe. “Swiss justice froze, from the start of the preliminary investigation, the bank assets of Riad Salamé and his brother Raja Salamé”reveals Zena Wakim, lawyer for the Swiss foundation Accountability Now, at the origin of complaints against Mr. Salamé in France, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
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