Riad Salameh stands accused of money laundering, says Lebanese President Aoun
Salameh has refused to cooperate with the forensic audit request of the central bank’s accounts, and failed to provide the necessary documents
By News Desk - February 12 2022

Photo credit: Al Mayadeen

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has accused the country’s Central Bank (Banque du Liban) governor, Riad Salameh, of ignoring the financial forensic audits of the bank accounts.

The president has also claimed that Salameh is backed by a number of political parties, and is involved in money laundering.

President Aoun said that “suspicions began to circulate” about the Central Bank governor after he refused to provide Alvarez and Marsal, a global consultancy firm, with requested documents.

“His failure to cooperate cost us $150,000 in penalties,” Aoun said.

Aoun told Al-Akhbar in an interview on 11 February that the Lebanese judiciary has been cooperating with its Swiss counterpart in the investigation into Salameh.

Last year, Swiss legal authorities opened an investigation into Salameh and the Banque du Liban in relation to the discovery of around $300 million in a network of offshore Swiss banks, which the central bank governor allegedly embezzled with the help of his brother, Raja.

France, England, Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium have also requested assistance from Lebanon’s judiciary regarding the probe into Salameh.

French authorities launched a similar probe into Salameh in May last year on charges of aggravated money laundering.

“All of these countries opened his books at once. It became clear that he had personal assets abroad, the size of which I will not say … but he has achieved more than he expected. Accusations were brought against him, and because they are accusations, I will not disclose them,” Aoun said.

In July last year, Salameh was caught trying to smuggle around €100,000 in cash into France. He was stopped by French customs agents, fined €2,700 and was processed for entering the country with undeclared funds.

According to Al-Akhbar, Lebanese public prosecutor Ghassan Oweidat has a “file that includes enough evidence and data to allow the prosecution of Salameh,” yet it is not in the jurisdiction of the judiciary to do so, and remains a political decision.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati has stood firm against the dismissal of Salameh, claiming that the central bank governor “is a guarantor that there will not be a major collapse in the price of the national currency,” and that such an event would lead to the disruption of the upcoming negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Mikati has threatened to resign if Riad Salameh is dismissed.

So far, Salameh has repeatedly denied all allegations against him, claiming he is the victim of a witch-hunt.

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