Lebanese Civil Groups Filed Complaint In Switzerland Against Banks Allegedly Cooperating With Riad Salameh

Lebanon Civil Groups File Complaint In Switzerland Against Banks Allegedly Cooperating With Riad Salameh
Bloomberg/Hasan Shaaban

A group of civil organizations in Lebanon has filed a complaint in Switzerland requesting an investigation into several banks over alleged illicit funds linked to Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh.

In a press release, the Depositors Union announced that it had united with Beirut Madinati, Li Haqqi, Taqaddom, and Pyramid to lodge the complaint to the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).

The complaint requests an in-depth investigation into Swiss banks that have not reported any suspicious transaction, “or have done so belatedly,” to the supervisory authorities over the last years, in regards to “red flags” being raised in the case of Salameh and his entourage.

The press release said these red flags, as specified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) intergovernmental organization, are:

  • Attempts to shield the identity of the concerned person
  • Use of corporate vehicles to obscure the beneficial ownership
  • Use of intermediaries that go against normal business practices
  • Transfer of funds between accounts or financial institutions without any business rationale
  • The piling up of an important number of offshore companies and opaque structures

It noted that the HSBC bank has already been involved in a money-laundering scheme that led to it receiving a fine of over $2.5 billion.

“In the case of Mr. Salamé, it appears from the file of the Swiss Federal Public Prosecutor that HSBC (Switzerland) SA has allowed hundreds of millions of dollars to touch and go through its institution, before being dispatched to offshore structures in Panama and the BVI, to the benefit of Mr. Salamé and his entourage,” the press release said.

“It appears from the Swiss investigations that part of these funds was channeled through one of the companies of Mr. Salamé which is a founding shareholder of a U.K. financially regulated company, alongside Bank Audi and Julius Baer.”

The press release pointed out that Lebanese laws prohibit the governor of the central bank from making investments in a financial company.

As such, the Depositors Union, alongside the aforementioned groups, called on FINMA to investigate the banks that “could have sheltered illicit funds,” particularly HSBC (Switzerland) SA, Bank Audi (Suisse) SA, and Julius Baer.

They also requested that the Authority takes “appropriate sanctions” against these banks and the individuals revealed to be involved in this scheme.