Lebanese Central Bank accused of concealing commissions recipients: Report
The commissions, handled by a company owned by the brother of Central Bank governor Riad Salameh, were allegedly used to embezzle millions of dollars in public funds
By News Desk - February 21 2022

(Photo credit: The Arab Weekly)

The Lebanese Central Bank is suspected of concealing information regarding the recipients of commissions that were charged to commercial banks when they bought government securities, according to a report by Reuters.

The commissions were reportedly gathered and reviewed by Forry Associates, a company owned by the brother of Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, Raja, who is accused of helping his brother with the embezzlement of millions in public funds.

According to four contracts signed between the Central Bank and a local commercial bank, dated from 2004 to 2014, the local bank paid three-eighths of one percent commissions on the purchasing of deposit certificates worth millions of dollars. The contracts made no mention of the company owned by Salameh’s brother.

Forry Associates was enlisted to “gather all these commissions and fees and redistribute according to the instructions,” Salameh said in an interview with Reuters, adding that the commissions were approved by the board of the Central Bank.

According to a Central Bank spokesperson, the board is not authorized to comment or answer questions on the issue, as only Salameh can speak on the bank’s behalf.

The commissions, which are under the investigation of Lebanon’s judiciary, are also a part of a Swiss investigation launched into Salameh last year after the discovery of around $300 million of allegedly embezzled funds, distributed across a network of offshore Swiss banks.

According to a Swiss judicial document, the money was embezzled from Lebanon’s Central Bank by Salameh and his brother using the commissions.

Salameh has denied all allegations, saying: “My opponents, who have organized systematic campaigns against me, have misled public opinion by spreading false information that public funds have been used. Nothing prevents me from investing and developing my own wealth, especially since it is only real estate and personal financial investments.”

Salameh’s leadership of the US-backed Central Bank is supported by a number of parties and political officials in Lebanon, despite several calls for his prosecution.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has stated that he will resign in the event that Salameh is dismissed from his position.

On top of this, the country’s police chief has been accused of preventing security officials from apprehending Salameh earlier this month after a subpoena was issued against him.

The bank Governor is also facing a travel ban and several of his assets have been seized by a Lebanese court. He is also being investigated for corruption in France, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein.

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