Judge receives Riad Salameh corruption file with hearings to start 'soon'

Beirut First Investigative judge confirmed to The National that he will set hearings of defendants after reviewing it

Riad Salameh, the former governor of Lebanon's central bank. AP
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Beirut First Investigative judge Charbel Abou Samra received Riad Salameh's corruption case in its entirety on Tuesday, he confirmed to The National.

“I have received the whole file. I will set hearings of the defendants as soon as possible after reviewing it,” he said.

Lebanese judge Raja Hamoush charged the former Central Bank governor, his brother Raja and his assistant Marianne Howayek with embezzlement, forgery, illicit enrichment, money laundering and breach of tax law on Thursday.

The move follows an 18-month investigation led by Judge Jean Tannous into the alleged embezzlement of more than $330 million from the central bank — Banque du Liban (BDL) — through a contract awarded to the governor's brother's company.

After the charges were filed, the case was moved to Judge Abou Samra.

After examining the case and questioning the defendants, he can either dismiss the case or, if he decides there is sufficient evidence, file an indictment, which would then lead to a trial.

Once praised as the guardian of the financial sector, which has now collapsed amid an unprecedented financial crisis, Riad Salameh has been investigated in at least six European countries since 2020 over alleged financial wrongdoing and corruption. He denies any wrongdoing.

A delegation of European judicial officials visited Lebanon last month to question witnesses and collect evidence. They are set to come back for a second round of questioning in a few days.

Updated: February 28, 2023, 10:06 AM