| 23 May 2024, Thursday |

European prosecutors in Beirut view bank data in governor probe, sources say

This week, European prosecutors in Beirut looked into bank transfer records relating to a probe into whether Riad Salameh, the head of Lebanon’s central bank, and his brother stole public cash, according to four persons with knowledge of the situation who spoke to Reuters.

Similar to a Swiss investigation into the matter, prosecutors from Germany, France, and Luxembourg are pursuing a cross-border money laundering investigation and believe Riad Salameh and his brother Raja stole more than $300 million from the central bank between 2002 and 2015.

A Lebanese judge charged Riad Salameh with illicit enrichment in March in a separate but related probe.

The central bank governor and his brother deny the accusations. Riad Salameh has said he is being made a scapegoat for Lebanon’s deep financial crisis that erupted in 2019.

The European prosecutors, who have yet to file any formal charges, suspect the two men used some of the money to acquire real estate assets in France and across Europe, according to European officials and French court documents seen by Reuters.

Property and accounts worth $130 million have been frozen across Europe in connection with the case, according to European officials and French court documents.

The Salameh brothers have challenged the seizure of assets in France, their lawyers say. A French court is hearing the case.

The documents viewed by the visiting European prosecutors included bank records listing money transfers which Raja Salameh made via Lebanese banks, the people familiar with the matter said.

European officials said it would be the first time the prosecutors had seen the transfer details that could help track the flow of funds. Lebanese prosecutors conducting a parallel probe had not shared those findings until now, they added.

Lebanon’s top prosecutor, Ghassan Oueidat, did not respond to a request for comment on what documents were viewed by the European prosecutors.

  • Reuters