Lebanese judge charges longtime central bank governor with money laundering: Source

Longtime central bank governor Riad Salameh, his brother Raja and one of his assistants have been charged with money laundering, embezzlement and illicit enrichment, a senior judicial source said on Thursday.

The charges come after an 18-month investigation into whether Salameh and his brother embezzled more than $300 million from Lebanon’s Central Bank between 2002 and 2015.

Judicial authorities in at least five European countries are investigating Salameh and his brother Raja on the same allegations.

The Salameh brothers have denied the charges.

“As I declared previously, I am innocent of these charges,” Salameh said in a text message to Reuters on Thursday, adding that Thursday’s step was “not an indictment.”

“I am respectful of the laws and of the judicial system and will abide by the procedure, and as you know one is innocent till proven guilty by a court of law,” he wrote.

He has dismissed accusations of illicit enrichment as part of an effort to scapegoat him for Lebanon’s financial collapse, which has brought new scrutiny to his three-decade tenure.

Lebanese judge Raja Hamoush filed the charges against the Salameh brothers and an advisor Marianne Hoayek on Thursday.

The preliminary investigation carried out by Lebanon’s judiciary was completed in June 2022 but had since stalled.

The country’s prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat had at the time referred Salameh and a number of unidentified associates to a Beirut prosecutor to file charges including illicit enrichment, embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion.

But the prosecutor recused himself and was later removed from the case following a complaint from Salameh.

Oueidat said in January he was planning on naming a new prosecutor to take the case forward.

Salameh, central bank governor since 1993, still enjoys backing from powerful Lebanese leaders. Many judges largely owe their appointments to politicians.

Salameh’s current term is set to end in July. He said he will not seek to stay on.

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