Brother of Lebanon’s central bank president misses hearing on fraud
A session in Beirut on Tuesday with European investigators looking into whether the siblings misappropriated and laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in public monies over a decade was missed by the central bank governor of Lebanon’s brother.
Along with his brother Raja, Governor Riad Salameh is under investigation in Lebanon and at least five other European nations for allegedly stealing more than $300 million from the central bank by charging bond buyers commissions and then transferring the money to Raja’s company, Forry Associates.
The brothers dispute their wrongdoing. A plea for comment on Tuesday went unanswered from Raja’s, 62, attorney.
Raja was scheduled to be questioned as part of the investigation on Tuesday morning by European investigators who arrived in Beirut on Monday.
His lawyer briefly attended the session to inform the judge that the defendant was ill, according to a senior judicial source who spoke to Reuters. The governor, 72, has in the past refuted accusations of misappropriation by asserting that the commissions were not public cash.
French authorities claim that money obtained from Forry was used to buy “numerous” properties in Europe and the UK, according to court documents.
According to the documents, Riad is suspected by the prosecution of using false banking records in Raja’s name to conceal illegitimate sources of wealth.
Over the course of two days in March, European investigators questioned the governor in Beirut about the central bank’s connections to Forry, his holdings overseas, the source of his fortune, and transfers he made to friends and family. The detectives are back to continue questioning Raja and a helper named Marianne Houayek.
The three have not yet been formally and publicly charged in the European countries under investigation despite having been accused of financial crimes in two separate cases in Lebanon.
Riad has been informed by French prosecutors that they aim to file fraud and aggravated money laundering accusations at a hearing scheduled for May 16 in France.
Salameh’s attorney stated earlier this month that his client had not made up his mind over whether or not to attend the French hearing.
Raja was detained in Lebanon for about two months last spring due to allegations of “complicity in illicit enrichment” that allegedly involved his brother.
Raja was freed on a record bail of 100 billion Lebanese pounds, which, at the time, converted to almost $3.7 million.