(Photo credit: Reuters)
On 12 April, the Mount Lebanon accusatory body, led by Judge Pierre Francis, approved the release of the Central Bank Governor’s brother, Raja Salameh, and dismissed the appeal issued by Judge Ghada Aoun.
The accusatory body also reduced Raja Salameh’s bail from 500 billion Lebanese liras, which amounts to $20 million, to 200 billion Lebanese liras.
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 he owns.
Marwan Al-Khoury, the attorney representing the Central Bank chief’s brother, had previously said that the initial $20 million bail, set by Judge Nicolas Mansour on 31 March, was “unprecedented” in Lebanon’s judicial history.
“The amount is unreasonable and illogical,” Al-Khoury said after appealing earlier this month to have the bail value reduced.
Mansour had ordered Raja Salameh’s release, yet Judge Aoun filed an appeal against his decision, demanding that he remain in custody on charges of “facilitating money laundering” and “illicit enrichment,” the same charge given to his brother, Riad Salameh.
The same judge is also overseeing several cases against the Central Bank Governor himself, who has repeatedly failed to show up at court.
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 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.