Skip to main content

Lebanon: Central bank chief Salameh 'suspect' in 120m euro asset seizure across EU

France, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco and Belgium seize properties and assets of five people in move linked to probes into Riad Salameh
Lebanese anti-government protesters hold a mask of Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh during a protest in front of the central bank headquarters in Beirut (AFP)

Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh is a suspect in a joint case conducted across several European Union states which seized some 120 million euros ($132m) of Lebanese assets, prosecutors in Germany said on Monday.

Properties and bank accounts linked to five people suspected of embezzling around $330m were seized in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco and Belgium, the Hague-based Eurojust said in a statement. 

An email from Munich prosecutors said the statement from the EU criminal justice agency referred to investigations concerning Governor Salameh, whose wealth is being investigated in at least five European states.

Eurojust has been involved in coordinating meetings between countries investigating Salameh.

Lebanon: From Switzerland of the Middle East to modern-day dystopia
Read More »

But a Eurojust spokesperson declined to comment further and declined to name the suspects, in line with regulations.

"Despite the outcome of the action day, the suspects in the main investigation are assumed to be innocent until they have been proven guilty, according to law," their statement said.

Swiss prosecutors suspect Salameh and his brother Raja of embezzling some $330m, according to a letter the Swiss attorney general sent to Lebanese officials last year. 

A diplomat from one of the countries where the assets were seized also confirmed the move was related to the probes into Salameh and his brother, according to Reuters.

The Eurojust statement said the assets seized included some 35 million euros' worth in Germany that included properties in Hamburg and Munich, two property complexes in Paris worth 16 million euros, and Monaco bank accounts worth 46 million euros.

'Illicit enrichment'

Last week, Lebanese judge Ghada Aoun charged Riad Salameh with "illicit enrichment" and money laundering after he failed to attend a court hearing for the fifth time.

Aoun also charged his brother with "facilitating money laundering" after he was arrested a week earlier over financial misconduct.

The judge is investigating whether a number of residential apartments in Paris belong to the bank governor, a judicial source told AFP. 

Earlier this year, Aoun, who is overseeing several legal cases against Riad Salemeh, slapped him with a travel ban for alleged financial misconduct

The central bank chief has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Lebanon has been mired in a devastating economic crisis since 2019, when the financial system collapsed under the weight of decades of state corruption, waste and mismanagement, paralysing the banking system.

Riad Salemeh, who had led the central bank for three decades, is widely blamed for policies that contributed to Lebanon’s financial collapse.