(Photo credit: Reuters)
The first investigative judge in Mount Lebanon, Nicolas Mansour, has ordered that the brother of Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh be released on a bail of 500 billion Lebanese liras, or $20 million.
During the hearing on 31 March, Mansour also postponed the questioning of the central bank governor until June.
Raja Salameh was arrested on 17 March on charges of illicit enrichment and 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.
Following the decision of Mansour, prosecutor Ghada Aoun filed an appeal against Salameh’s release and demanded that he be kept in custody.
On 21 March, Aoun charged Riad Salameh with illicit enrichment in relation to the purchase and rental of an apartment in Paris.
Salameh reportedly bought the apartment and then rented it out to Lebanon’s central bank, Banque du Liban, at an inflated rate.
The central bank chief, who has denied all charges of corruption, said last November that “not a single penny of public money” was used to pay Forry Associates.
However, just days after he was charged, the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) announced the seizure of €120 million worth of assets connected to Riad Salameh.
In a media statement published on its website, Eurojust said the seized assets include several bank accounts and properties across Europe.
Salameh, who has been at the helm of the Lebanese central bank for three decades, is under investigation for money laundering and corruption in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland.
Judge Aoun has 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.