French court upholds seizure of Lebanese banker Riad Salameh's assets

More than $130 million of assets linked to the governor of Lebanon's central bank were frozen throughout Europe in March 2022

Riad Salameh has denied all the charges against him. Reuters
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The Paris Court of Appeal has upheld seizure orders issued as part of a continuing investigation of Lebanon's central bank governor Riad Salameh, a source close to the matter told The National.

A European joint investigative team issued orders to freeze more than $100 million worth of property and bank accounts across Europe belonging to Mr Salameh and his relatives, which it suspected to have been acquired through extensive embezzlement from the Lebanese central bank.

The court's ruling followed a plea from Mr Salameh's legal team to release the assets.

The orders pose "countless issues", Pierre Olivier Sur, Mr Salameh's lawyer in France, told The National after the first hearing on the matter in April.

If it is proven that Mr Salameh misappropriated public funds for personal gain, the assets in question could be sold, with the proceeds being repatriated to the Lebanese state.

Most of the assets were frozen in March last year following a European crackdown on money laundering in Lebanon.

The operation was conducted as part of a joint investigation led by judicial authorities from France, Germany and Luxembourg, and led to the seizure of assets totalling €120 million ($130 million) belonging to the governor and four of his family members.

Mr Salameh is facing investigations in six European countries, which suspect him of having embezzled more than $330 million from Lebanon's central bank with the help of his brother Raja and using the proceeds to purchase luxurious properties in Europe.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

In May, France and Germany issued arrest warrants for Mr Salameh and notified Interpol, which issued a red notice.

Mr Salameh has said he intends to step down from his post, which he has held for 30 years, when his current term ends at the end of this month. The Lebanese government has not indicated whether it was considering removing him before then.

Updated: July 26, 2023, 11:23 AM