BEIRUT— A Lebanese judge has charged longtime central bank governor Riad Salameh, his brother Raja and one of his assistants with money laundering, embezzlement and illicit enrichment, a senior judicial source said on Thursday.
The charges come after an 18-month investigation. A previous judge recused himself and did not file charges. The Salameh brothers have denied the accusations.
The case had been opened in 2021 by Jean Tannous, the Attorney General at the Financial Prosecution. Tannous investigated Forry Associates Ltd. — a company whose financial beneficiary is Raja Salameh, Riad Salameh's brother — which allegedly received more than $330 million in brokerage fees between 2002 and 2014.
The proceedings came to a halt when the case reached the investigative judge, and Tannous had retrieved from the case.
The brothers had filed a suit against the Lebanese state accusing Tannous of committing "grave mistakes" through the course of his probe.
Salameh is the target of a series of judicial investigations not only in Lebanon alone but also abroad for "money laundering," "illicit enrichment" and "embezzlement."
Delegations composed of prosecutors, investigating judges, and financial prosecutors from France, Germany and Luxembourg, arrived in Beirut in January to investigate the above-mentioned claims.
Could the charges brought against Riad Salameh, and the referral of the case to investigating judge Abou Samra in Lebanon then impede the proceedings against him by European prosecutors?
According to Paul Morcos, Director of the law firm Justicia, the UN Convention on Combating Corruption states that when an investigating judge in a given country takes over a case, he or she has the right to refuse mutual legal assistance requested by investigators from foreign countries regarding that same case.
In the case of Salameh, the European investigators are already aware of many elements of the case, but they also wanted to take a statement from the governor.
They could therefore be prevented from summoning Salameh now that proceedings have been launched against him in Lebanon.
However, according to the principles of law, before issuing a decision against a person, the judges should hear them.
Without such a summons, a possible indictment by the European judiciary could then be effectively impeded.
In another case opened against the Salameh brothers by Mount Lebanon prosecutor Ghada Aoun, but also related to the suspected transfers to Forry Associated Ltd, Raja Salameh had been arrested between March 17 and May 12, 2022. He had been released after the payment of a 100 billion Lebanese lira bail, a record amount with regards to the Lebanese judiciary.
Many hold Salameh responsible for the economic crisis, citing policies that drove up national debt and caused the Lebanese lira to depreciate to record value. The Central Bank governor, who has held the post for the past three decades, still enjoys the backing of top politicians.
longtime central bank governor Riad Salameh, his brother Raja
and one of his assistants with money laundering, embezzlement
and illicit enrichment, a senior judicial source said on
The charges come after an 18-month investigation. A previous
judge recused himself and did not file charges. The Salameh