Higher authorities in the European Union and Switzerland have requested Lebanon’s assistance in acquiring information about transactions linked to Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, his brother Raja, and his assistant Marianne Hoayek, amounting to nearly $400 million, Al-Akhbar reported.
As per the newspaper, the ongoing investigation into the transactions has a forensic nature and is not only related to Salameh but also to the Lebanese central bank and the institutions that belong to it, including Casino du Liban, Middle East Airlines, and Intra Bank.
European authorities are studying Salameh’s case within a file that involves a large number of Lebanese figures according to a “suspicion list” prepared in coordination between France, the UK, and the US, which requested the EU’s participation in the investigation.
Al-Akhbar’s sources said France and the UK decided to investigate the matter individually, and, recently, there were discussions to arrange informal meetings that would involve questioning Salameh.
The sources revealed that the contacts that took place with the concerned French authorities regarding the central bank’s case tackled the idea of a settlement whereby Salameh resigns from his position as part of a deal preventing him from being prosecuted.
On that note, a French official has told the same source that France has not hidden its desire for major changes, including in the Banque du Liban after scrutinizing its activities, but it did not provide any guarantees.
Lebanese caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm told Reuters on Tuesday that she had received a request from the Swiss authorities regarding an inquiry into money transfers by Salameh.
She said she had “submitted the request to the public prosecutor to do what is necessary.” On his part, Salameh said he would look into the report.
Reuters also quoted an unnamed government official as saying that the Swiss authorities had opened an investigation into money transfers by the central bank governor, adding that Lebanon’s prime minister and its president are both “in the loop on the move.”
Salameh has since affirmed in a statement that he, “as always, is committed to the Lebanese and international laws in force, and cooperates with all those concerned about Lebanon and its financial and banking situation internally and abroad.”
He also denied the allegations about any financial transfers he had allegedly made abroad, whether in his name or in the name of his brother or assistant.
Salameh called the allegations “baseless fabrications and false news that will be the subject of legal prosecution against anyone who published and publishes them with the intention of persistent offense.”