Former aide of Riad Salameh indicted in embezzlement investigation in France

Marianne Hoayek is accused of receiving funds siphoned from Lebanon's central bank

Marianne Hoayek was charged with money laundering and criminal conspiracy. Photo: Banque du Liban
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Marianne Hoayek, a senior adviser at Lebanon's Central Bank and a former assistant to Governor Riad Salameh, has been indicted for money laundering as part of an investigation into the alleged embezzlement of more than $330 million.

She was also indicted for criminal conspiracy and placed under judicial supervision with a prohibition on contact and exercising at the central bank, and an obligation to pay a bail of €1.5 million after her hearing before a judge in France on Friday.

Ms Hoayek, 43, is suspected of having received funds embezzled from Lebanon's Central Bank through Forry Associates, a company owned by Riad Salameh's brother, Raja Salameh. He is suspected of playing a pivotal role in an alleged money laundering scheme within the central bank.

Investigators suspect Forry was created to siphon money by taking a 0.38 per cent commission from the Bank of Lebanon each time it bought instruments, including certificates of deposit, Eurobonds and Treasury bills, without performing any services in exchange.

The money was then used to purchase expensive property in Europe, including Germany, France and Belgium, and the UK belonging to the governor and his relatives.

“Marianne Hoayek contests these accusations and will provide proof that these funds came mainly from donations from her father,” her lawyer Mario Stasi told AFP. Ms Hoayek's late father was a wealthy businessman.

According to a leaked request for assistance from Swiss investigators to the Lebanese judiciary in 2021, Ms Hoayek is suspected of having received at least $1.1 million from Forry through her company, Rise Invest SA, between 2008 and 2013.

Switzerland is one of six European countries, along with France, investigating transactions related to the alleged embezzlement from the central bank.

In March 2022, authorities in France, Germany, and Luxembourg seized assets worth €120 million ($130 million) related to Mr Salameh as part of co-ordinated operation.

This is the third indictment in the French investigation into the governor since the case was entrusted to Judge Aude Buresi in 2021.

In March, Marwan Kheireddine, chief executive of Lebanese bank Al Mawarid, was indicted in Paris for the same charges. He is suspected of having falsified bank documents to account for Riad Salameh's wealth.

In July 2022, Anna Kosakova, 46, the romantic partner of Riad Salameh, was also indicted for criminal conspiracy, organised money laundering and aggravated tax fraud.

Once praised as the guardian of the financial sector, Mr Salameh, 72, is now facing growing accusations over the country's financial collapse.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

He said he accumulated his fortune when working for US investment bank Merrill Lynch before assuming the role of governor at the central bank in 1993.

The French and German judiciaries have issued arrest warrants for Riad Salameh over accusations including money laundering and fraud, which led to Interpol issuing a Red Notice in May.

He was then questioned by a Lebanese judge in Beirut, who confiscated his French and Lebanese passports and banned him from leaving the country, without making a decision regarding his potential removal from office.

Mr Salameh continues to serve as the governor of the central bank until his mandate expires in July.

Updated: July 20, 2023, 12:17 PM