Since the end of 2019, Salameh has become one of the main responsible for the financial crisis that Lebanon is going through, finding himself at the center of Lebanese and European judicial investigations on several charges.
Salameh was subjected to careful and targeted interrogation in Beirut in March 2023, by European judges and under the supervision of Lebanese justice, where hundreds of questions were addressed to him, most of which related to money laundering operations. money in European banks.
Three types of activities
The types of lawsuits against the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon differ, as the first type is related to lawsuits concerning his direct responsibility for the financial collapse in Lebanon, while the second type is related to investigations outside of Lebanon, regarding illegal enrichment and embezzlement. of funds through the brokerage firm “Fore Associates” owned by Raja Salameh, brother of the governor of Banque du Liban, while the third type is linked to accusations of money laundering, the accumulation of large wealth in Europe, more precisely in France, and the purchase of luxury real estate by abusing its power.
Riad Salameh was appointed Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon on August 1, 1993 for a period of 6 years, and he was reappointed for four consecutive terms in 1999, 2005, 2011 and 2017, and in July 2023 he will end a reign that lasted 30 years.
How did Salama collect his fortune?
Salameh insists he amassed his wealth through his previous work for two decades at global financial institution ‘Merrill Lynch’, and investments in several areas, apart from his job as head of the Bank of Lebanon.
Salama had revealed in early 2022 that the size of his personal fortune was around $150 million, indicating that he had benefited from investment advice and bank loans to buy a luxury property, pointing out that there is no did not see a crime.
Fears to ban correspondent banking
However, French justice has issued an international arrest warrant against Salameh, who has reworked the papers linked to this file, fearing that this note will push the correspondent banks to refrain from carrying out any transfer or financial transaction with the Bank. center of Lebanon, which necessitates his immediate resignation.
The French arrest warrant concerns “money laundering” cases obtained on French territory, because, according to “Agence France Presse”, French investigators suspect Salameh of having accumulated real estate and banking assets, through the through a complex fraudulent financial scheme, and of embezzling Lebanese public funds. on a large scale, during He took over the management of the Banque du Liban for three decades.
Riad Salameh responded, with a press release, to the arrest warrant issued by the French courts, stating that he would contest this decision, which constitutes a violation of the laws, indicating that the French investigation struck a fundamental principle linked confidentiality of investigations, which was evident through news agencies obtaining documents Confidential investigation These agencies also know in advance the intentions of investigators and judges.
Not properly notified
For his part, Banque du Liban Deputy Governor Me Pierre-Olivier Sur said that Salameh’s absence from the investigation session on May 16, 2023 is due to his failure to inform him of the obligation to appear before French justice in accordance with the rules, and this case was confirmed by the Lebanese justice, which announced that the authorities had not informed Salameh of the summons.
A high-level Lebanese legal source said in an interview with “Sky News Arabia Economy” that Lebanon has the right not to extradite the governor of the Banque du Liban to the French authorities, and that Lebanese justice has already faced similar cases and made decisions about them. , indicating that the expected scenario will occur after the release of the name of the Central Bank of Lebanon. Riad Salameh, as desired by Interpol globally, asks Salameh to leave office at the request of the Lebanese authorities, after which the Lebanese judicial authorities announce that they will try Salameh on their territory after having confiscated his passport and prevented from traveling.
According to the judicial source, the second scenario could consist in forcing the governor of the Banque du Liban to resign from his functions, by arresting him by the Lebanese justice, with a refusal to hand him over to the French justice, which is the scenario least possible and in which the first deputy governor takes the security position until a new leader is chosen As for the third scenario It is the maintenance of Salameh in his position until the end of his term end June and the beginning of July 2023, as this coincides with the fact that he is the subject of investigations by the Lebanese judiciary, considering that this scenario will have dangerous repercussions, given that the head of the Lebanese financial system has become the subject of international suspicion related to embezzlement, forgery and money laundering. .
Prior knowledge of the arrest warrant market
For his part, bank adviser Bahij Al-Khatib said in an interview with the “Sky News Arabia” site that the Lebanese market was in the picture of what will happen yesterday, when the news of the issue of a French arrest warrant against the governor of the Banque du Liban was leaked about two weeks ago, so we have seen stability. On the monetary, financial and banking level in the country after the publication of the memorandum, while the exchange rate of the American dollar against the Lebanese pound also maintained its stability, at the level of 94,000 pounds per dollar, and from from there, it can be confirmed that the local market absorbed the shock without registering any rebound.
Al-Khatib adds that there is a strong possibility that the international arrest warrant will cause correspondent banks to stop doing business with Lebanon, which will have great repercussions, especially since the Lebanese economy has become ” dollarized”, and therefore any step in this direction can isolate Lebanon from the global financial system, the consequences of which no one can bear, indicating that the hours or days to come will be decisive as to the choice that the Governor of the Banque du Liban, or even the Lebanese authorities, will resort to, with a remote possibility that the Lebanese government will appoint a new governor for the Banque du Liban.
Shattered confidence and pressure on lira
For his part, the director of the Lebanese Institute for Market Research, Patrick Mardini, said in an interview with “Sky News Arabia Economy”, that the French arrest warrant will shake confidence in the Lebanese financial sector, which will lead to more pressure on the Lebanese pound, and will make it difficult for the Central Bank to intervene in the market, recalling that the mandate of the governor of the Banque du Liban ends in about two and a half months, and therefore the question whether he resigns or not is not an important question, since he will eventually leave.
Mardini believes that research should currently focus on the characteristics of the new governor of the Banque du Liban, who must inspire credibility, in order to ensure the restoration of confidence in the Lebanese pound and the Lebanese banking system, noting that no whoever should come after Governor Salameh, whether he is a new ruler or one of his deputies, so he must stick to stopping the printing of the lira and not having the foreign currency reserves from the country.
May 18, 2023 Published by The Eastern Herald News.