Riad Salameh: Lebanon to freeze accounts of former central bank governor

Brother Raja, former aid Marianne Hoayek and romantic partner Anna Kosakova also hit by sanctions

The central bank of Lebanon building in Beirut, days after governor Riad Salameh ended his 30 years in office on August 4. Getty Images
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Lebanon is to freeze the bank accounts of former central bank governor Riad Salameh and his associates and lift banking secrecy on them, the Special Investigation Commission for fighting money laundering and terrorism financing has decided.

The decision was signed on Monday by the new acting governor, Wassim Mansouri.

The associates include Mr Salameh's former aid Marianne Hoayek, his romantic partner Anna Kosakova, his son Nady Salameh, and his brother Raja Salameh.

The move comes days after the US imposed sanctions on Riad Salameh for having "abused his position of power, likely in violation of Lebanese law, to enrich himself and his associates by funnelling hundreds of millions of dollars".

The four associates "who helped to conceal and facilitate this corrupt activity" were also hit by sanctions.

Riad Salameh is under scrutiny in domestic and international investigations for the alleged misappropriation of $330 million from Lebanon's central bank funnelled into real estate in Europe and the UK.

There, more than $130 million worth of assets associated with him have been frozen.

These suspicions prompted France and Germany to issue arrest warrants for him, while Ms Hoayek and Ms Kosakova were placed under formal investigation in France.

The SIC is Lebanon's financial intelligence unit. Its duties include conducting financial inquiries, freezing accounts, reporting dubious transactions to legal bodies and pursuing cases of money laundering.

It is made up of nine members and chaired by the central bank governor.

Until Mr Salameh left office on July 31 after three decades in the job, he was the chairman of the SIC.

This raised questions of conflict of interest as he was being investigated for money laundering.

While international pressure mounts, the Lebanese proceedings have encountered various political obstacles.

Charges were filed in March against Riad Salameh, his brother and Ms Hoayek in February after an 18-month inquiry. Minimal progress has been since achieved.

The file was transferred in February to Charbel Abou Samra, who released Riad Salameh after a hearing on Wednesday and did not set a date for another one.

Riad Salameh has repeatedly denied the allegations and any wrongdoing and defended his legacy at the bank.

Updated: August 14, 2023, 7:19 PM