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The governor of the Lebanese central bank appeared in the first court hearing on the premise of several international charges.
Riad Salameh, the governor of Banque du Liban is under investigation by five European countries regarding the allegations of public fund embezzlement and money laundering. Raja Salaemeh, Riad’s brother, is also under custody for hundreds of millions of dollars in embezzlement charges.
According to the report published by the FT, Salameh governed the bank for 30 years and was questioned for five hours in Beirut court, under the inquiry of the European team and a Lebanese judge as a requirement of the country’s law.
The governor refused to plead guilty to all alleged charges and stated they aim to use him as a scapegoat for Lebanon’s economic collapse in 2019. In March 2022, the governor was also charged with illegal enrichment for money laundering and was arrested for failing to appear in a court appearance.
Raja and Riad were found guilty of the money laundering allegations, causing immense reputational damage to the bank. They are also facing a new inquiry in Lebanon with Beirut’s public prosecutor investigating an associate, Marrianne Hoayek, on corruption charges. The prosecutors have moved to freeze their assets.
All three deny the allegations the FT report mentions. Beyond that, Najib Mikati, Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, stated that it is not favourable to extend Salameh’s term as Central bank governor when his sixth term ends in July, as per the report.
The report comes amid money laundering news in several countries. In January, Bulgarian police raided Nexo, the cryptocurrency lender, in a money laundering and tax investigation. The raid was part of a flurry of law enforcement activity involving crypto firms.
In November 2022, the US Department of Justice charged 21 people involved in using fraud schemes to launder money via cryptocurrency. The individuals were said to be involved with transnational money laundering networks that helped foreign criminal gangs.
Later in December 2022, the Chinese police busted a money laundering group that laundered an estimated $1.7 billion using cryptocurrency. The group used the money for domestic and foreign criminals that acquired the funds for illegal pyramid schemes, gambling and fraud.
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