French Investigations Show Riad Salameh Used Millions In BDL’s Funds For Private Purposes In France

Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh Said Lira/USD Peg "Is Finished"
Greg Demarque/Executive

On Friday, March 18, the Swiss daily newspaper Le Temps revealed the outcome of an investigation by the French authorities regarding the alleged financial misconduct of the governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank, Riad Salameh.

The investigation reportedly discovered that, between 2010 and 2021, Lebanon’s Central Bank (BDL) paid 5 million euros to a company managed by Anna K. (also known as Tania), claimed to be the mother of Riad Salameh‘s child.

AP Photo/Christophe Ena

The Central Office for the Suppression of Serious Financial Crime has been investigating Salameh’s assets in France. The investigation led them to an apartment in Paris owned by Anna K, of Ukrainian origins, and a connected sum of 16 million euros.

On October 21, 2021, police officers of the Central Office went to the apartment to investigate. Anna K reportedly did not respond, staying silent for two hours, which forced the police to break into the apartment.

They discovered a big adjacent apartment, several documents, including the gray card of a BMW 4 series, and statements of an account with a Luxembourg bank. It was then clarified that the apartment was the personal home of Riad Salameh.

Le Temps commented that this has been happening “while Lebanon is going through an unprecedented financial crisis to the point that Lebanese savers have not had access to their accounts since March 2020.”

“Le Temps, which has revealed the possessions of Riad Salame in Switzerland, continues its investigation of his financial networks and those of his relatives.”

Since 2021, Riad Salameh has been the target of a judicial investigation by Judge Aude Buresi for alleged “organized money laundering.”

William Bourdon and Amélie Lefebvre declared that they have filed a complaint on behalf of “a collective of Lebanese who want justice to be done on behalf of an entire people impoverished by a faction of delinquents from large scale in a mafia partnership between the public and the private sector”.

images by PCA-stream

According to information acquired by Le Temps, the visit of the police officers to that apartment led them to another discovery with the cooperation of Anna K.

She accompanied them to the premises of Efficice, an office rental company that manages three floors in Champs-Élysées. As for the fourth floor of the building, it is rented to the Banque du Liban (BDL) and only has two barely used computers.

The police also found an amendment to a contract signed between Salameh and Anna K. It includes an “executed” payment of 4.8 million euros to Anna K.’s company by the BDL between 2010 and 2021.

It also includes monthly rents for 5 offices, fixed by two contracts in August 2015 and then December 2016, and 37,523 euros to Efficice, which, according to Le Temps, is three times more than the rental price of other customers.

However, Banque du Liban does not appear anywhere in the list of Efficice clients.

According to the Swiss newspaper, the affair could turn into a diplomatic incident between Paris and Beirut, since Lebanon’s Central Bank is not legally authorized to practice in French territories.

The Banque de France confirmed to Le Temps that “Banque du Liban does not have a representative office in France and cannot exercise, or be likely to exercise, any activity requiring authorization from the Bank of France.”

These arrangements are also illegal under Lebanon’s law that states: “The governor must devote himself entirely to the Central Bank. His office is incompatible with any legislative office, public office or business activity, regardless of whether the office is remunerated or unpaid.” 

Raja Salameh

Other documents seized by the French judiciary indicate financial links between Anna K. and relatives of Riad Salameh, in particular his brother Raja Salameh, who was recently arrested in Beirut with charges of Illicit enrichment and alleged embezzling involvement with his brother.

The French judge, Aude Buresi, also sent requests for additional information to Belgium, Monaco, and Great Britain.

Le Temps commented on the swift action by the French authorities in contrast with the Swiss slowness in doing its part.

In response to Le Temps’s call for an update, the Swiss Public Ministry of the Confederation said, “The Federal Office of Justice has delegated a request for mutual assistance from the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office to Switzerland in this context, which is in the process of being executed.”

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