European legal team arriving in Lebanon in corruption probe

Jan 10, 2023, 3:55 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2023, 6:00 am
FILE - Bank customers hold up defaced posters of Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon's Central Ba...

FILE - Bank customers hold up defaced posters of Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon's Central Bank, right, and Makram Sadir, then-secretary general of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, with Arabic that reads: "Stole my future," during a protest in front of the Central Bank in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. Lebanese caretaker Justice Minister Henry Khoury said on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023 a European judicial delegation from France, Germany, and Luxembourg have started to arrive in Lebanon as they continue probing Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and affiliates over corruption allegations. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein, File)

(AP Photo/Bilal Hussein, File)

              FILE - Protesters throw bottles glasses at the Lebanese Central Bank building, background, where the anti-government demonstrators rally against the Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and the deepening financial crisis, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. Lebanese caretaker Justice Minister Henry Khoury said on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023 a European judicial delegation from France, Germany, and Luxembourg have started to arrive in Lebanon as they continue probing Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and affiliates over corruption allegations. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
            
              FILE - Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon's Central Bank, speaks during a press conference, in Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 11, 2019. Lebanese caretaker Justice Minister Henry Khoury said on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023 a European judicial delegation from France, Germany, and Luxembourg have started to arrive in Lebanon as they continue probing Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and affiliates over corruption allegations. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
            
              FILE - Bank customers hold up defaced posters of Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon's Central Bank, right, and Makram Sadir, then-secretary general of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, with Arabic that reads: "Stole my future," during a protest in front of the Central Bank in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. Lebanese caretaker Justice Minister Henry Khoury said on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023 a European judicial delegation from France, Germany, and Luxembourg have started to arrive in Lebanon as they continue probing Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and affiliates over corruption allegations. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein, File)
            Lebanese caretaker Justice Minister Henry Khoury, speaks during a press conference at the Justice Palace in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Khoury said a European judicial delegation from France, Germany, and Luxembourg have started to arrive in Lebanon as they continue probing Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and affiliates over corruption allegations. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein) Lebanese caretaker Justice Minister Henry Khoury, speaks during a press conference at the Justice Palace in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Khoury said a European judicial delegation from France, Germany, and Luxembourg have started to arrive in Lebanon as they continue probing Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and affiliates over corruption allegations. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein) Lebanese caretaker Justice Minister Henry Khoury, speaks during a press conference at the Justice Palace in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Khoury said a European judicial delegation from France, Germany, and Luxembourg have started to arrive in Lebanon as they continue probing Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and affiliates over corruption allegations. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein) Lebanese caretaker Justice Minister Henry Khoury, speaks during a press conference at the Justice Palace in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. Khoury said a European judicial delegation from France, Germany, and Luxembourg have started to arrive in Lebanon as they continue probing Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and affiliates over corruption allegations. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT (AP) — A European judicial delegation from France, Germany, and Luxembourg has started to arrive in Lebanon to probe the country’s Central Bank governor and dozens of other individuals over suspected corruption, the justice minister said Wednesday.

Five European countries are probing the embattled governor, Riad Salameh on allegations of laundering public money in Europe. Switzerland first opened a probe two years ago, followed by France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein.

Since 2019, Lebanon has been in the throes of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement. Three quarters of the country’s population now lives in poverty.

Once hailed as the guardian of Lebanon’s financial stability, many in the cash-strapped country now hold the 72-year-old Salameh responsible for the crisis, citing policies that drove up national debt and caused the Lebanese pound to lose more than 90% of its value against the dollar. The governor, who has held the post since April 1993, still enjoys the backing of top politicians.

Activists and lawyers have questioned the personal wealth Salameh has amassed over the years, though he has repeatedly insisted that he earned it prior to his appointment as governor while working as an investment banker for Merril Lynch for nearly two decades. He said his last salary was $2 million a year, and that he had a fortune worth $23 million, plus property he had acquired and “wisely invested” in to grow his wealth, before he became governor.

Caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury said in a press conference that the German delegation had arrived to Lebanon, while their counterparts from France and Luxembourg are scheduled to arrive next Monday. They will leave the country four days later, he said.

“It is no longer a secret that Lebanon received requests for legal assistance from Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Switzerland,” Khoury said, adding that Lebanon sent Switzerland, Germany, and France “numerous pieces of evidence that they requested”.

The European judges look to question over a dozen individuals, notably the governor, his brother Raja Salameh, the heads of major commercial banks in Lebanon and the auditors of the central bank.

French, German and Luxembourg authorities in March froze more than $130 million in assets belonging to five suspects linked to a money laundering investigation of $330 million and 5 million Euros. It is widely believed that the Salameh brothers are among them.

The office of Switzerland’s attorney general said in January 2021 that it requested legal assistance from Lebanon. A document of the request obtained by The Associated Press showed that federal prosecutors heavily inquired about the Lebanese Central Bank’s relationship with Forry Associates Ltd, a brokerage firm owned by Raja Salameh.

Several reports have said that Riad Salameh hired the firm to handle government bonds sales by the Central Bank in which his brother’s firm received about $330 million in commissions. The governor said last November that “not a single penny of public money” was used to pay for Forry Associates Ltd.

Zeina Wakim, a lawyer who heads the Swiss organization Accountability Now that filed legal complaints against Salameh and affiliates in Switzerland, France, and the United Kingdom, said she expects “limited cooperation” from the Lebanese to “show good face” due to the country’s strong ties between the politicians, banks, and judiciary.

“The delegation will realize what it means to have the 18 largest banks in Lebanon controlled by the elite,” Wakim told the AP. “Any genuine and real cooperation in Lebanon — be it a bank, public official, or judge — would be a strike to the system itself because of this connection between the banking oligarchy and the political elite, and obviously the governor of the central bank.”

Lebanese investigative Judge Ghada Aoun has also pursued Salameh and his affiliates in 2022, freezing some of Salameh’s assets, slapping a travel ban, and briefly arresting his brother Raja. In March 2022, she charged Salameh and his brother with illegal enrichment and money laundering.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Protesters gather in front of police headquarters while marching Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Memphi...
Associated Press

Memphis police disband unit that fatally beat Tyre Nichols

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis police chief disbanded the city’s so-called Scorpion unit on Saturday, citing a “cloud of dishonor” from newly released video that showed some of its officers beating Tyre Nichols to death after stopping the Black motorist. Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis acted a day after the harrowing video emerged, saying […]
1 day ago
FILE - The Chinese Embassy is pictured in Tokyo on Jan. 11, 2023. China announced it was resuming i...
Associated Press

China announces resumption of visas for Japanese

TOKYO (AP) — China announced it was resuming issuing visas for Japanese travelers beginning Sunday, ending its nearly three-week suspension in an apparent protest of Tokyo’s tougher COVID-19 entry requirements for tourists from China. The decision was announced in a statement posted on the Chinese Embassy’s website. China stopped issuing new visas in Japan on […]
1 day ago
FILE - Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi leaves the Conservative Party head office in Westm...
Associated Press

UK leader fires party chairman over tax bill allegations

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fired the chairman of his ruling Conservative Party Sunday over a “serious breach” of the ministerial code. Pressure had been building on Nadhim Zahawi amid allegations he settled a multimillion-dollar unpaid tax bill while he was in charge of the country’s Treasury. In a letter to Zahawi, […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Turkey issues travel warning to Europe following protests

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey issued a travel warning late Saturday for its citizens living in or planning on going to European countries, citing Islamophobia and anti-Turkish demonstrations. The warning comes after last weekend’s protests in Sweden where an anti-Islam activist burned the Quran and pro-Kurdish groups protested against Turkey. The Turkish foreign ministry urged its […]
1 day ago
Oleksandra Hryhoryna inspects her house which was damaged by shelling last fall in Kalynivske, Ukra...
Associated Press

Russians gone from Ukraine village, fear and hardship remain

KALYNIVSKE, Ukraine (AP) — When night falls in Tatiana Trofimenko’s village in southern Ukraine, she pours sunflower oil that aid groups gave her into a jar and seals it with a wick-fitted lid. A flick of a match, and the make-do candle is lit. “This is our electricity,” Trofimenko, 68, says. It has been over […]
1 day ago
Rescue workers collect remains from the burnt wreckage of a bus accident in Bela, an area of Lasbel...
Associated Press

Passenger bus in Pakistan crashes, catches fire killing 40

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — A passenger bus crashed into a pillar and fell off a bridge, catching fire and killing 40 people in southern Pakistan on Sunday, a government official said. The bus was carrying 44 passengers from Quetta in Balochistan province to Karachi in neighboring Sindh province. The accident was near the town of […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
European legal team arriving in Lebanon in corruption probe