Germany confirms arrest warrant for former Lebanon central bank chief Riad Salameh

Munich public prosecutor's office says it is investigating the banker, a year after The National exclusively reported money laundering allegations

The Salameh Papers - The National uncovers details on allegations against Lebanon banking chief

The Salameh Papers - The National uncovers details on allegations against Lebanon banking chief
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German prosecutors confirmed for the first time that they are investigating claims against the former head of Lebanon's central bank and had issued an arrest warrant for him.

The Munich public prosecutor's office said it was investigating Riad Salameh, Lebanon's central bank chief from 1993 to 2023, together with his brother Raja and other suspects on charges including forgery, money laundering and embezzlement.

In July last year, The National revealed the full extent of the prosecution case against Mr Salameh, who is accused of embezzling $330 million from the financially stricken country. Previously unseen documents, obtained by The National from two independent sources, disclosed in detail how Mr Salameh is alleged to have siphoned the funds into Europe and the US, the companies created to execute the plan, the accomplices he is said to have used and the vast property empire he now controls.

The Salameh brothers deny all the charges.

Mr Salameh, 72, is being investigated in Lebanon and at least five European countries for allegedly taking hundreds of millions of dollars from Lebanon's central bank, to the detriment of the Lebanese state, and laundering the funds abroad.

German and other European prosecutors have visited Lebanon several times to question the Salameh brothers. Lebanon, however, does not extradite its own nationals.

The Munich public prosecutor's office said that part of the allegedly defrauded sum, which investigators put at €150 million ($162.3 million), was routed to Europe via a letterbox company in the British Virgin Islands and invested in real estate, including in Germany.

In an operation with partner authorities in France and Luxembourg, the prosecutor's office said three commercial properties in Munich and Hamburg with a total value of about €28 million had been confiscated.

Authorities also seized shares worth about €7 million in a Dusseldorf property company.

Germany is considered a major country in the world in which illegally earned funds are fed into the economy through money laundering.

Updated: February 28, 2024, 8:38 AM