Germany issues arrest warrant for Riad Salameh

Interpol issued a red notice last week for Lebanon's Central Bank Governor

Six nations are investigating the Central Bank Governor. Reuters
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Germany's public prosecutor has informed the Lebanese judiciary of an arrest warrant for Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, a source told The National.

It comes a week after France issued an arrest warrant for Mr Salameh after he failed to attend a hearing in Paris.

He is suspected of having siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars from the Banque Du Liban (BDL) through an embezzlement scheme with the help of his brother Raja.

Reuters reported that the Lebanese judiciary had been told of charges including corruption, forgery, money laundering and embezzlement.

“The mounting accusations of misconduct show that it is not a political smear campaign but a judicial case grounded in significant evidence”, a European diplomat told The National.

A source close to the matter told The National that Germany has notified Interpol about their decision. However, the specific details regarding how this differs from the Red Notice requested by France are still unclear.

The Interpol Red Notice was initially issued in response to Riad Salameh's failure to attend his scheduled hearing in the French judiciary, leading to him being classified as a fugitive from justice.

The move comes as reports indicate that Lebanon is likely to be put on Tuesday on a “grey list” of countries that are placed under increased scrutiny because of insufficient measures in place to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The brothers denied any wrongdoing.

Riad Salameh is under investigation in six European countries.

How Lebanon's central bank governor allegedly embezzled millions

How Lebanon's central bank governor allegedly embezzled millions

He is suspected of having embezzled public funds through layering operations involving the Luxembourg and Swiss banking systems to finance luxurious properties in France, Germany, the UK and Belgium.

Lebanon received an Interpol notice on Friday. This enables authorities in other countries to assist in identifying and finding the suspect, with the aim of extraditing them to the issuing country.

Lebanon is not legally compelled to extradite Mr Salameh. The country has a long-standing policy of not extraditing its own citizens.

The governor, whose mandate end at the end of July, remains in office despite growing calls for his resignation within the political class after the French judicial decision.

This year, a delegation of European judicial officials have visited Lebanon several times as part of an international investigative team including France, Germany and Luxembourg. They collected evidence and questioned people including Riad Salameh and his brother, to boost their case.

German properties

European investigators suspect Riad Salameh embezzled public funds through his brother's company, Forry Associates Ltd.

They allege Forry is a shell company which received a 0.38 per cent commission on each transaction with the commercial bank for more than a decade without performing any services in return.

Judicial documents seen by The National show that Riad Salameh is suspected of having bought properties in Europe with the Forry commissions, through various structures, of which he is the beneficial owner.

According to a seizure order from the German judiciary in March 2022, Riad Salameh and his brother have invested “the funds obtained from the Central Bank of Lebanon, particularly in real estate but also in the acquisition of company shares, while concealing the origin of the incriminated funds in the legal economic circuit in Germany”.

These properties include at least two buildings in Germany bought for 6.3 million euros and 3.4 million euros respectively in 2015 and 2017 through Stockwell Investissement S.A, a Luxembourg-based company Riad Salameh controls.

Updated: July 26, 2023, 11:29 AM