(Photo credit: Reuters)
Raja Salameh, the brother of Lebanon’s Central Bank governor Riad Salameh, was arrested on 17 March following a hearing at the Palace of Justice in the Mount Lebanon municipality.
A judicial source said that Salameh and his brother are accused of “complicity in illicit enrichment,” and that Raja Salameh was detained at the Baabda courthouse following an interrogation, and remains in custody.
The brother of the Central Bank governor has been accused of aiding in the embezzlement of millions of dollars in public funds through concealed commissions that were received by Forry Associates, a company owned by Raja Salameh.
“The Appeal Public Prosecutor in Mount Lebanon, Judge Ghada Aoun, is listening to the testimony of the brother of the Governor of the Bank of Lebanon, Raja Salameh, regarding contracts and financial transfers to his accounts outside Lebanon,” local media reported ahead of the hearing.
Lebanese media also revealed that Judge Aoun seized the assets of Al-Etimad Bank over alleged illicit dealings with the Central Bank. The frozen assets include real estate, vehicles, and commercial company shares.
Over recent days, Aoun has ordered the freezing of the assets of seven other Lebanese banks, including Bank of Beirut, Bank Audi, SGBL, Blom Bank, and Bankmed, over their dealings with the Central Bank.
Judge Aoun had previously issued a travel ban against Salameh, as well as a warrant for his arrest. However, when the warrant was carried out, Internal Security Forces (ISF) reportedly interfered and protected Salameh from being captured.
This move was revealed to have likely been caused by the direct intervention of the US Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea.
Salameh has been directly accused of money laundering and embezzlement by a number of Lebanese officials, including Lebanese President Michel Aoun, but has denied all allegations.
Salameh is also currently under investigation for corruption and money laundering in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland.
Lebanese attorney Nizar Saghieh said on 17 March that the “illicit enrichment” charge implicates both Salameh brothers, and that the Central Bank governor himself is likely to be summoned and face charges soon.
“The charge is that Raja acted with his brother to take public funds, and so it is impossible to separate Riad from this,” Saghieh explained.
“Symbolically, the arrest is very important as it shows big people are being pursued and put in jail and the impunity system in the country is not as strong as it was before,” Saghieh added.