ARCHIVE – Lebanese protestors wear masks bearing the face of Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, during anti-government protests in November 2019. (Photo Credit: AFP)
An exclusive report by Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Akhbar revealed that judicial representatives from several European countries are to visit Lebanon next month to investigate the ill practices of Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh.
France, Germany, and Luxembourg sent three separate letters to Lebanon within the same time frame, informing the judiciary of their intention to launch an audit into Lebanon’s financial institutes.
The letters did not ask for permission but simply informed Lebanon of their intention – regardless of whether the Lebanese state agrees to the investigation or not.
This was reiterated by several Lebanese judicial sources to Al-Akhbar, who confirmed that European public prosecutors, investigative judges, policemen, and clerks, will visit Beirut between the 9th and 20th of January 2023.
Earlier in November, the demands by the French and German authorities were limited to the work of judges.
This coincides with the details of the written communication between the office of the Lebanese Public Prosecutor, Judge Ghassan Oweidat, and his European counterparts.
The letters showed utter neglect of Lebanese law and a lack of respect for the country’s sovereignty, pressuring Oweidat to comply with their demands for state-related information.
The Europeans intend to interrogate Salameh, all his deputies since 2001, and senior employees of the Central Bank.
Additionally, they intend to question his brother Raja Salameh, his assistant Marianne Howayek, and the chairmen of the boards of directors of Lebanese banks as well as their executive directors.
This goes against Lebanese law, however, which prohibits foreigners from directly interrogating Lebanese citizens, and requires the presence of a Lebanese judge as an intermediary.
Al-Akhbar gave the example of Lebanese-French businessman Carlos Ghosn, who testified to the French judiciary through a Lebanese judge.
Despite all this, Lebanon has yet to give an official response to the European states, and the matter has not been publicly discussed.
The absence of a president and caretaker government is expected to complicate the situation and tilt it in favor of the Europeans.
The US has not shown any interest in joining the investigation, despite its evident role in Lebanon’s political, financial, and military affairs.
Salameh and his deputies are individuals Washington can count on and trust, as it considers them capable of upholding the US Treasury’s goals in Lebanon against Syria and the resistance.
“We need a governor who is sensitive and with whom confidential information about terrorist financing and money laundering can be exchanged. The situation today is that we trust Governor Riad Salameh,” said an influential US official.
This alone has been enough to protect Salameh both in Lebanon and abroad, since he has been accused of embezzlement, money laundering, and abuse of influence in Switzerland, Britain, Luxembourg, Germany, the Netherlands, and Lebanon.