Beirut – Lebanon Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh handed Prime Minister Najib Mikati during a their meeting on Friday “a report on his personal accounts prepared by his auditors BDO, Semaan, Gholam & Co auditing company.”
“The report was prepared at my request and it includes an auditing of my personal bank accounts and the accounts that have been mentioned in the press for the past year and a half and are the subject of judicial investigations,” Salameh said after the meeting.
“I handed the report based on the principle of transparency, and so that he be in possession of verified information that proves that no funds had entered into the central bank from operations related to the Forry Associates company, and that I have not personally benefitted from any funds from the central bank,” he added.
“My accounts at the bank are totally separate from the central bank’s accounts,” Salameh stressed .
He added: “This issue has nothing to do at all with the rest of the matters, whether the forensic audit or judicial investigations, and this report will be submitted inside and outside Lebanon where there are judicial lawsuits.” he added.
This development comes after Luxembourg’s judicial authorities joined Switzerland and France to become the third known European country to open a criminal case into Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor and his assets, a spokesperson has confirmed to OCCRP.
The first of two investigations into the governor, published August last year, uncovered Salameh’s ownership of three companies in Luxembourg which owned nearly US$100 million in overseas assets.
Salameh claimed that the source of his funds come from his successful commercial banking career and inheritances, prior to working at the central bank.
Company accounts suggest tens of millions of euros in financing for the investments was sometimes secured without collateral. A fourth Luxembourg company owned by the governor’s brother loaned 17.2 million euros ($18.8 million) to a French property investment vehicle which acquired luxury real estate in Paris.
The second investigation, published in December, found that a company tied to Salame bought a stake in his son’s wealth management company, then sold it to a major Lebanese bank that he regulates.
Lebanon’s embattled central bank governor has continued to invest in valuable overseas properties during his country’s two-year economic meltdown that has plunged 74 percent of Lebanese into poverty, according to a recent U.N. analysis.
Fulwood Invest S.a.r.l., a Luxembourg company that is owned by Salameh and directed by his son, Nady Salameh, in June 2020 bought a GBP 6.25 million (US$7.8 million) property in West London, according to records obtained by OCCRP. The asset earns GBP 320,000 (US$428,543.68) in annual rental income from commercial tenants, according to a chartered surveyor which valued the property.
The same company in December 2020 bought a GBP 4.9 million (US$6.5 million) property in the expensive Kings Cross area of central London.
Salameh’s companies and assets span multiple countries across the globe, including Germany, Belgium and the U.K., as well as favorable tax havens, such as Panama, Liechtenstein and the British Virgin Islands.
Several countries are coordinating their prosecution efforts, according to Le Monde, which reported that last month, a number of European prosecuting authorities met in The Hague with the French and Lebanese prosecutors in charge of investigating Salameh, to form a transnational investigative team to facilitate the exchange of information in the case.
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