120 million euros frozen in Lebanese laundering probe

AFP , Monday 28 Mar 2022

France, Germany and Luxembourg have seized properties and frozen assets worth 120 million euros ($130 million) in a major operation linked to money laundering in Lebanon, the EU's justice agency said Monday.

Riad Salameh
Lebanon s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh speaks to a reporter during an interview with AFP at his office in Beirut . AFP

"Five properties in Germany and France were seized as well as several bank accounts," were frozen, Eurojust said in a statement.

The Hague-based Eurojust said the operation on Friday was directed against five suspects who were suspected of embezzling public funds in Lebanon of more than $330 million between 2002 and 2021.

This included the seizure of a three properties in Germany, valued at 28 million euros as well as other assets worth seven million euros.

In France, two Paris properties valued at 16 million euros as well as a bank account with 2.2 million euros were seized.

In Luxembourg, around 11 million euros were frozen in another bank account, Eurojust said.

The agency did not give any details on the suspects, saying "they are assumed to be innocent until proven guilty."

French anti-graft prosecutors last year opened a probe into the personal wealth of Riad Salameh, the central bank chief in crisis-hit Lebanon.

Prosecutors are probing Salameh's alleged links to criminal association and money laundering, judicial sources said, following a similar move by Switzerland.

In post since 1993 and once hailed by political and business leaders, Salameh has been repeatedly accused by the government of former caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab of being responsible for the collapse of the Lebanese pound.

The Lebanese public suspect him and other high officials of transferring money abroad during a 2019 uprising, when ordinary people were prevented from doing so.

The 71-year-old former Merrill Lynch banker has defended himself, saying he believed he was being made the scapegoat for the Middle Eastern country's financial woes.

His lawyers too, have called for the opening of a judicial probe, saying "it will give us access to the file" the contents of which "we contest entirely."

Short link: