Washington’s man in Lebanon, Banque du Liban Governor Riad Salameh, is responsible for Lebanon’s financial collapse.
Newly disclosed documents confirm that the Governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank, Riad Salameh, embezzled millions of dollars in public funds via real estate properties in France.
The documents, obtained by Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, also show that during the last several years of his 30-year tenure as central bank chief, Salameh acted without any accountability from other authorities.
His money laundering scheme centered on making the central bank pay exorbitant rent for luxury apartments owned by Salameh and his close relatives in the French capital, allegedly to serve as “emergency centers” for the central bank.
According to Al-Akhbar, the money belonging to Lebanese citizens secured monthly stipends of 30,000 euros for Salameh’s girlfriend and daughter. Their names, as well as that of his brother Raja Salameh, are linked to the shell companies used to purchase the French properties.
The rent payments were reportedly approved by the members of the bank’s central council between 2010 and 2015 without previous auditing.
According to legal experts who spoke with Al-Akhbar, the documents show that the central bank’s council members did not raise any objections or ask any questions every time Salameh asked to rent more office space in France or any time the rent price was increased, calling their actions “contrary to the law.”
The experts also believe these documents betray the hidden interests behind a campaign that has tried to acquit Salameh of all corruption allegations, under the claims that he is a victim of “political persecution.”
Salameh – who is being investigated for corruption in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, and Lebanon – has also enjoyed the protection of the US embassy in Lebanon against prosecution.
Over the past several months, Lebanese prosecutors have tried to carry out arrest warrants against Salameh. However, time and again, security forces are unable to locate Salameh.
The protection afforded to the central bank chief comes despite the accusations of international organizations like the UN and the World Bank, which have blamed Lebanon’s central bank for “human rights violations” and for carrying out a “Ponzi scheme” with the money of citizens.
According to an investigation by The Cradle columnist Lea Azzi, since 1997, Salameh has personally taken all the measures and made all the decisions that led to Lebanon’s economic collapse.
These include fixing the exchange rate, borrowing US dollars from the central bank, luring Lebanese banks to bring in deposits from correspondent banks abroad, and placing them in the central bank with high interest rates.
Salameh is also behind executing financial engineering that doubled the profits of bank owners and increased the state’s debt; concealing the losses of the banking sector; applying subsidies to imports of fuel, medicine, and wheat, and then raising prices before finding an alternative for citizens; and finally, of participating in currency market speculation which contributed to the collapse of the Lebanese lira, wiping out the life savings of millions.