Chief of Lebanon’s central bank accused of concealing fraud by French prosecutors


Beirut/Paris – According to French court records seen by Reuters, French prosecutors have informed the governor of Lebanon’s central bank, Riad Salameh, that they intend to file preliminary fraud and money laundering accusations against him, in part because of allegedly fabricated bank statements used to hide his riches.

Documents provided to Salameh by French legal authorities ahead of a hearing scheduled on May 16 in France contain the accusation of utilising phoney account statements, which had not previously been disclosed.

French prosecutors want to present the initial accusations and formally identify him as a suspect at that session.

Regarding his suspected use of phoney documents, Salameh declined to comment. He has consistently refuted claims that he committed fraud and used launderies,

Regarding his suspected use of phoney documents, Salameh declined to comment. He maintains that he is being used as a scapegoat for Lebanon’s financial crisis, which erupted in 2019, and has repeatedly refuted allegations of fraud and money laundering.

Salameh’s attorney stated earlier this month that his client had not made up his mind regarding whether or not he would fly to France to attend the hearing on May 16.

French prosecutors believe Salameh, 72, conspired with his brother Raja to syphon more than $300 million in public monies, some of which was used to purchase homes throughout Europe. This is part of an investigation that they are conducting in conjunction with counterparts in Lebanon and at least four other European nations.

Both Raja Salameh and Riad have denied misusing public funds.

Investigators from France and other European nations who questioned Salameh in Beirut last month believe the majority of the governor’s wealth comes from the public cash he is claimed to have misappropriated.

In response to charges, Salameh forwarded a 65-page note to French prosecutors that was provided by Marwan Kheireddine, the head of Lebanon’s AM Bank.

According to one of Salameh’s lawyers, the document seen by Reuters comprises a number of bank documents that demonstrate how the governor’s savings increased from $15 million in 1993 to more than $150 million by 2019 “as he capitalised interests.”

The bank statements were fraudulent, however, according to French authorities, according to court documents seen by Reuters in France.

French prosecutors claim in court documents that Salameh “used false records of bank accounts at AM Bank… provided by Marwan Kheireddine, to justify in a dishonest manner the origin of his properties or revenues.”

Thierry Marembert, Kheireddine’s attorney, stated that his client denied misconduct.

According to French court documents, French prosecutors stated that after Salameh was questioned in Beirut, “Riad Salameh is not able to justify the different loans and investments that allowed him to increase his wealth by more than 250 million euros (at a minimum) during this period.”

According to Salameh, his wealth resulted from wisely managing the savings he accumulated over the course of his career as an investment banker.

Early this month, Kheireddine was detained in France on accusations of taking part in a criminal organisation and aggravated money laundering. The banker’s passport was taken, and he was instructed not to leave the country.

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