BEIRUT — Lebanese actress Stephanie Saliba, known to be close to Banque du Liban (BDL) chief Riad Salameh, was arrested on Friday on the orders of the financial prosecutor general, Ali Ibrahim.
In the evening, she was released by the general prosecutor at the Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal, Ghada Aoun, who questioned her, the magistrate confirmed to L'Orient-Le Jour.
Saliba is the subject of a search warrant issued by Judge Aoun. Saliba is being prosecuted for theft of public funds and money laundering in both Lebanese and European jurisdictions.
Despite the warrant, Saliba was not arrested when she landed at Beirut International Airport on Wednesday evening, following an instruction given by Ibrahim to General Security.
A source close to Aoun confirmed to L'Orient-Le Jour that the Lebanese actress was arrested by judicial police. The source also said Ibrahim made a mistake with his initial decision to let Saliba enter freely, which he would have wanted to "correct" by with her arrest.
The source added that, since Saliba's case file is on Aoun's desk rather than Ibrahim's, the latter is not technically authorized to give orders related to her case. Ibrahim should have referred the matter to Aoun, the only person authorized to handle the case.
In a press release, General Security clarified details of the procedure followed on Wednesday night, denying accusations of negligence.
According to the statement, the search warrant for Saliba "did not include the name of any judge or prosecutor who should have been contacted in such cases."
Noticing that the charge against Stephanie Saliba was money laundering, General Security then "turned to the financial prosecutor, Ali Ibrahim, who asked [General Security] to release Saliba, seize her Lebanese passport and refer her to the Financial Prosecutor's Office within the next 48 hours," the statement continues.
For his part, Wadih Akl, who is a civil party in other cases related to Riad Salameh, said that by wanting to "protect" Saliba by letting her go freely on Wednesday night, Ibrahim instead harmed her.
Meanwhile, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati's press office denied a report published Thursday in the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar that claimed Mikati had intervened to prevent the arrest of the actress.
"What the newspaper al-Akhbar wrote about the interference of the caretaker prime minister in a case related to Stephanie Saliba is absolutely false," his press office said.
According to the Free Patriotic Movement-affiliated channel, OTV, Judge Aoun will take legal action against anyone who prevented the execution of the search warrant.
In early December, the BDL governor's former partner, Anna Kosakova, was questioned by the French National Prosecutor's Office following her indictment in June for "criminal conspiracy," "organized money laundering" and "aggravated tax fraud laundering" in the case of alleged embezzlement by BDL to the detriment of the Lebanese state.
Salameh himself has been also the subject of a series of judicial investigations, both in Lebanon and abroad, on suspicion of fraud, money laundering and illicit enrichment, among other allegations. He has repeatedly denied these accusations while refusing to appear in court.
BEIRUT — Lebanese actress Stephanie Saliba, known to be close to Banque du Liban (BDL) chief Riad Salameh, was arrested on Friday on the orders of the financial prosecutor general, Ali Ibrahim.In the evening, she was released by the general prosecutor at the Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal, Ghada Aoun, who questioned her, the magistrate confirmed to L'Orient-Le Jour.Saliba is the subject of a...