BEIRUT — The General Prosecutor at the Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal, Ghada Aoun, filed charges on Thursday against Banque du Liban Governor Riad Salameh, his wife, and actress Stephanie Saliba, for suspicion of illicit enrichment, a senior judicial source confirmed to L'Orient-Le Jour.
Aoun also initiated proceedings against the Lebanon and Gulf Bank (LGB), where Lebanese actress Saliba, who is close to the BDL governor, has large amounts of money.
According to the judicial source, amid searching Salameh's house in 2022, the magistrate accessed documents that she said would prove the governor's illicit enrichment and transfers of funds made to his wife.
Aoun also consulted the land registry, which revealed that Saliba has valuable real estate in her name, the source said.
LGB, where the actress deposited her money, was also the subject of the judge's proceedings.
Aoun instructed the first investigating judge of Mount Lebanon, Nicolas Mansour, to issue arrest warrants in absentia against Salameh and Saliba.
Magistrate Aoun was dismissed by the Disciplinary Council of Judges on May 4, but has appealed the decision to the Higher Judicial Disciplinary Commission. Pending the verdict of the second-level body, she may resume her work, as her appeal has a suspensive effect on the dismissal decision. There is no legal deadline for the verdict.
She also recently filed a lawsuit against BankMed on suspicion of money laundering.
Against this tense backdrop, the Association of Banks in Lebanon condemned on Thursday in a statement the fact that "prosecutors continue to prosecute certain banks and change the criminal description of the offense by inappropriately qualifying it as a suspected money laundering offense."
Since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2019, Aoun has brought charges against several banks, while some judges have been at odds with the banking sector. Banks have imposed illegal restrictions on depositors' access to their foreign currency funds, without a capital control law.
Salameh is the subject of a series of judicial investigations both in Lebanon and abroad into suspected fraud, money laundering and illicit enrichment, among other allegations. The central bank's governor has repeatedly denied these accusations.
European judges, who have repeatedly visited Lebanon, recently questioned Salameh, his brother Raja and his former assistant Marianne Hoyek in Beirut.
In Dec., Aoun also issued a property restriction against Saliba, who is being investigated for theft of public funds and money laundering by Lebanese and European judiciaries.
The actress, who was the subject of a search warrant issued by Aoun, was briefly arrested on Dec. 9, a few hours after her arrival in Lebanon, before being released.