The Cradle
Lebanon’s Central Bank chief caught smuggling cash into France: Report
The embattled Central Bank chief faces embezzlement and graft charges in both Switzerland and France
By News Desk - September 04 2021
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Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh. (Photo credit: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Lebanese news outlet Al-Akhbar reported on 4 September that the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salameh, was caught trying to smuggle around €100,000 in cash into France in July before being caught by customs agents.

The report claims that legal action is being sought against Salameh by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, making public a detailed report received from French authorities which shows Salameh was fined €2,700 and processed for entering France with undeclared funds.

It also shows that Salameh tried to smuggle the funds into France using his diplomatic passport.

According to the report, French customs agents asked Salameh if he was carrying any cash before searching his bags, to which he replied he had €15,000 euros in his possession, the maximum amount allowed to be introduced in cash into France.

Instead, upon finishing their search, the agents found that the Central Bank Governor had €84,430 euros in his luggage, as well as $7,710 in his personal bag.

Salameh was taken in for questioning, at which point he claimed the additional amount was always inside his bag and that he “had forgotten” it was there.

These bombshell revelations come just weeks after Riad Salameh, who has led the Central Bank of Lebanon since 1993, was questioned by a Lebanese judge over graft allegations as part of a probe into his financial misconduct.

Lebanon opened a probe into his wealth back in April, after Swiss authorities requested official Lebanese assistance for an investigation into more than $300 million which Salameh allegedly embezzled from the Central Bank with the help of his brother.

Soon after Switzerland opened its probe, France also launched a similar investigation into charges of aggravated money laundering last May, before his blunder at Le Bourget Airport in Paris on 16 July.

Salameh has repeatedly denied the accusations.

The Central Bank Governor also made headlines last month when he unilaterally decided to end fuel subsidies for crisis-stricken Lebanon, plunging the country deeper into an energy crisis in which citizens have an average of two hours of electricity per day.

Salameh claimed his decision to lift subsidies was made to combat fuel smuggling and to protect the Central Bank’s reserves, which had shrunk from more than $40 billion in 2016 to $15 billion last March, as the fuel subsidies cost a reported $3 billion a year.