Revealed: Riad Salameh accused of using embezzled millions to build vast property empire

The first definitive account of how prosecutors believe the Lebanese central bank governor and his accomplices stole up to $330m - and what they did with the money

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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The National can today reveal the full extent of the prosecution case against Riad Salameh, the Lebanon central bank chief accused of embezzling $330 million from the financially stricken country.

Previously unseen documents, obtained by The National from two independent sources, disclose 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.

Among the new revelations are:

– A complete mapping of the Salameh clan's vast real estate empire across Europe, which has been seized by the judiciary for a total value of about $92 million. This includes mansions in prime areas of European capitals and industrial and commercial buildings that generate significant rental income, all suspected to have been acquired with Lebanese public funds.

– Previously undisclosed US real estate tied to Raja Salameh, the governor's brother, shedding light on the expansive reach of the Salameh empire worldwide, with identified properties alone valued at a minimum of $4.4 million.

– The family affair behind the scheme, the assigned roles of family members and the relevant assets they own.

– The indirect enabler of the alleged money laundering scheme and, notably, the lack of due diligence from European banks, which allowed about $100 million of suspicious funds to flow through Luxembourg-based companies, all while the EU banks displayed “no concern” regarding “the origin of [Riad Salameh's] wealth”.

– New alleged protagonists under investigation, with figures such as Christian Noyer, a former French central banker who provided undeclared consultancy services for Lebanon's central bank.

– The behind-the-scenes details of the investigation, involving hearings, detentions and large-scale police raids.

France, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Liechtenstein are all investigating Riad Salameh for alleged embezzlement from the Lebanon central bank with the suspected assistance of his brother, Raja.

It is alleged that the governor funnelled public funds through commissions paid to his brother’s company, neph Associates Ltd, under an irregular agreement with Lebanon's central bank from 2002 and 2016.

During this time, Forry would collect a 0.38 per cent commission from commercial banks, without them knowing and without providing any services in return, each time they bought financial instruments from the central bank.

The alleged ill-gotten funds followed a complex journey, typical of a money laundering scheme, traversing continents and ultimately being used for the acquisition of luxury properties within the EU.

Suspicions are such that both the French and German judiciaries have issued arrest warrants for Riad Salameh, leading to an Interpol red notice.

Three people have been placed under formal investigation in France, including Marianne Hoayek, his former assistant, Anna Kosakova, his romantic partner, and Lebanese banker Marwan Kheireddine.

Investigations are still ongoing and those accused are under investigation.

Despite the money laundering allegations, Riad Salameh continues to hold his position at the helm of Lebanon's central bank.

While his mandate is set to end on July 31, uncertainty lingers over the appointment of his successor.

Riad Salameh declared in an interview on Wednesday night that he would not be seeking another term.

Updated: July 27, 2023, 12:00 PM