European investigators are due to hear the governor of the Banque du Liban (BDL) Riad Salamé in February in Beirut as part of investigations into the movement of funds abroad by him and his brother, a judicial official told AFP on Friday. the AFP.
An announcement made as the Supreme Court in Lebanon announced earlier Friday that a European judicial delegation, which is investigating alleged financial malfeasance involving Riad Salamé, has completed the first stage of its mission, which began on Monday. During this week, several officials within the BDL and bankers were interviewed by this delegation.
“The European judges will return next month (to Lebanon) to complete their investigations with 18 financial and banking personalities, including Salamé and his relatives,” the Lebanese judicial official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The investigations undertaken by the European team in Beirut are part of investigations targeting the fortune of Riad Salamé, in particular for crimes of money laundering through the acquisition of real estate in France, in Germany and Luxembourg, but also in Belgium and Switzerland. It was the Swiss public prosecutor’s office which had opened the investigations, investigating in 2020 suspicious transfers of more than 330 million dollars made from an account at the Banque du Liban under a brokerage contract signed in 2001 between the BDL and Forry Associates Ltd, a company owned by Raja Salamé. We do not know why Swiss justice is not participating in the investigation in Lebanon.
At the end of the afternoon, the Cassation prosecutor’s office published a press release on the “conclusions of the first part of the mission of the European judicial delegation”. The prosecution said it had “finished on Friday providing the legal aid requested by France, Germany and Luxembourg, as part of an investigation into monetary transfers to these countries”.
In its press release, the Public Prosecutor then returns to the details of this cooperation between the judicial systems of the three European countries and Lebanon. He explains that a first meeting bringing together the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation Ghassan Oueidate, two French investigating judges, Aude Burezi and Serge Tournaire, the Financial Advocate General Quentin Dandoy, the Luxembourg investigating judge Martine Kraus and other magistrates had been held on Monday.
Vice-Governors, Directors, Bankers
Then, the Advocate General at the Court of Cassation Émilie Mirna Kallas, entrusted with this mission by the Oueidate prosecutor, heard several witnesses, including two vice-governors of the BDL, two general managers within the central bank, bankers working in the private sector, as well as an auditor. The interviewees were not named. Judicial sources had told L’Orient-Le Jour and AFP in recent days that Ahmad Jechi, former vice-governor of the BDL, former minister Marwan Kheireddine, CEO of the al- Mawared and Saad Andari, former vice-governor of Banque du Liban.
Press reports also report hearings of Raëd Charafeddine, former first vice-governor of the Banque du Liban from April 2009 to March 2019, Naaman Naddour, director of the BDL’s international operations department and Raya el-Hassan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of BankMed and former Minister of the Interior. L’Orient-Le Jour could not independently confirm their hearing.
Four sources familiar with the case told Reuters that the interrogations focused on the identity of the recipients of suspicious commissions. European prosecutors, who have yet to file formal charges, suspect the Central Bank collected those fees as a fee from bond buyers and then transferred the funds to Forry Associates, owned of the governor’s brother, those sources said. Bankers and officials told visiting EU prosecutors they were unaware the funds had gone to Forry Associates.
In camera hearings
The hearings, which were attended by the Advocate General at the Court of Cassation, Imad Kabalan, in addition to the European delegation, took place behind closed doors in Arabic in the presence of interpreters, further specified the Public Prosecutor’s Office. They were spread over five days and took place in the great hall of the Court of Cassation. Two court officers, Camélia Berbara and Fatima Mouad, were present to compile the minutes. These documents will be sent through diplomatic channels to the relevant authorities in each country involved.
As part of the investigation into financial embezzlement involving Riad and Raja Salamé, the German, French and Luxembourg magistrates also had access during the past week to bank statements which reveal transfers of money made by the governor’s brother via Lebanese banks, Reuters reported this week.