(Photo credit: Reuters)
A corruption probe into Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh made significant progress on 9 June, after top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat referred the case to the public prosecutor’s office in Beirut, and requested that formal charges be brought against Salameh.
On 9 June, Oueidat “concluded preliminary investigations into the central bank governor,” an anonymous court official told media.
“He transferred the case to the public prosecutor’s office in Beirut and asked the court to charge Salameh, his brother and Salameh’s secretary,” the source added.
According to the official, the charges against Salameh, his brother Raja, and other associates include embezzlement of public funds, illicit enrichment, tax evasion, and fraud.
Salameh’s mismanagement of public funds has been blamed as one of the main reasons for Lebanon’s economic meltdown, which the World Bank describes as the world’s worst in 150 years.
Raja Salameh was implicated in aiding his brother in the embezzlement of millions of dollars in public funds through concealed commissions that were received by Forry Associates, a company he owns.
He was detained on 17 March and released less than a month later on an LBP 500 million bail.
The Central Bank chief and his brother are under investigation in Lebanon, as well as a number of European countries including Luxembourg, Switzerland, France, Lichtenstein, and the UK for money laundering and embezzlement.
Riad Salameh – who has led the Central Bank for 30 years – has repeatedly failed to show up for questioning, and has evaded multiple attempts to arrest him, due in large part to US protection, specifically the direct intervention of US ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea.
Salameh and his brother have denied all allegations made against them, and have gone as far as to sue the Lebanese state over what they allege are “grave mistakes” made during the investigation, including bias and the violation of banking secrecy laws.
In a report released on 11 May, the UN accused Lebanon’s government and Central Bank of “human rights violations” for creating the conditions for an acute economic crisis that has plunged over 80 percent of the population below the poverty line.
“The Lebanese State, including its Central Bank, is responsible for human rights violations, including the unnecessary immiseration of the population, that have resulted from this man-made crisis,” the UN report reads.