The preliminary report on the forensic audit of Banque du Liban (BDL) can be considered a "public condemnation" of BDL's former governor Riad Salameh, Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Gebran Bassil said Tuesday evening during a party dinner. Bassil also called for similar audits to be carried out at all state institutions.
Speaking at the dinner, Bassil said the report by auditing firm Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) has "begun to reveal names and figures" and called Salameh a "financial criminal."
The A&M report covers the forensic accounting aspect of BDL's accounts. The 332-page report, dated Aug. 7, has been made available to government ministers. The document looks at BDL's accounts between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2020, and makes some scathing findings.
Beneficiaries of financial engineering
Bassil on Tuesday contended that the report "is just the tip of the iceberg," and assured that it would not reveal any corruption on the part of the FPM.
The party is regularly accused of mismanagement and corruption concerning the supply of electricity in Lebanon, which has cost the state billions yet remains desperately inadequate to meet the country's power needs — most households and businesses receive less than a handful of hours of state power each day. FPM-affiliated ministers have held the Energy Ministry since 2008.
Bassil, however, called for a forensic audit to be carried out "in all public institutions," starting with the Energy Ministry, "so that people know whether the expenditure made since the FPM took over the ministry is based on anything other than buying fuel [to supply power stations]."
Taking another swipe at Salameh, he accused the former BDL governor of "stealing from the people, without batting an eyelid," pointing out that the parties "benefiting" from the corruption at the central bank are the same ones who "distorted the truth and accused the FPM of being behind the collapse" of the country.
Bassil pledged to "pursue" these individuals and parties before "Lebanese and international justice, international organizations and Parliament in order to find out who benefited from the financial engineering" of the ex-governor and "who transferred funds abroad."
Bassil and the FPM regularly accuse Salameh of being at the root of the financial crisis in Lebanon.
Addressing the issue of offshore hydrocarbon development, Bassil accused his opponents of having "blocked for years" the adoption of two decrees before "rushing to have their photo taken on board a helicopter" on their way to the exploration platform currently installed off southern Lebanon on Block 9.
On Tuesday, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, two of Bassil's political rivals, traveled by helicopter to visit the TransOcean Barents drilling rig two days before the launch of exploration operations.
The bidding process for the allocation of exploration offshore blocks in the Lebanese exclusive economic zone had been suspended for several years, between 2013 and 2016, pending cabinet approval of two decrees, one defining the coordinates of the various blocks and the other specifying the terms of the operating contract binding the state to the concessionaires.
On this topic, former President and FPM founder Michel Aoun, who spoke at the same dinner, emphasized that it was when he became president in 2016 that progress on these decrees was finally made, allowing for the start of hydrocarbon exploitation procedures.