Monaco closes investigation into Najib Mikati for money laundering

Three-year probe into Lebanon's caretaker prime minister closed over lack of sufficient evidence

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.  EPA
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Monaco has closed its three-year-long investigation into Lebanon's billionaire caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his brother Taha Mikati and son Maher over allegations of money laundering, the principality's acting general prosecutor has told The National.

“The offence of money laundering of proceeds from an initially investigated offence was not sufficiently established,” Julien Pronier said.

In January 2022, Monaco sought mutual legal assistance from Lebanese authorities for its investigation into Mr Mikati and his family members related to allegations of money laundering linked to subsidised loans.

In 2019, Lebanon opened an investigation into the housing loans case, prompted by allegations that politicians and affluent individuals had unduly profited from central bank-subsidised loans.

These allegations also implicated members of the Mikati family and Lebanon's Bank Audi.

Mr Mikati is a telecoms tycoon from Tripoli.

The case remained with Beirut's First Investigative Judge, Charbel Abou Samra, for two years.

In March 2022, in a letter seen by The National, Lebanon informed Monaco that the local investigation had been dropped as Mr Abou Samra “issued a motion to dismiss and that this decision is definitive”.

The case, however, had remained open for over a year in Monaco.

The announcement of the case's closure “confirms that the spurious allegations and accompanying speculation were unfounded”, said an official press statement from Mr Mikati's office shared with The National.

“The Mikati family was always confident that this would be the outcome as it was aware that there was no basis to these claims,” it added.

“I believe these investigations were triggered by false and politically-motivated smears. I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of the Lebanese people,” Mr Mikati said.

According to a request last year for mutual legal assistance sent by Liechtenstein to Lebanese authorities, the Vaduz Public Prosecutor's Office has investigated money transfers between two companies owned by Riad Salameh, Lebanon's former central bank governor, and Taha Mikati.

“The Monaco judicial decision follows a confirmation from the Princely Court of Liechtenstein that there are no pending investigations against the Mikati family in Liechtenstein and there have not been any in the past, as had been alleged by previous media reports. With a Lebanese case also recently dropped, there are no continuing investigations, queries, or indictments against any of the Mikati family in any jurisdiction,” the statement said.

Mr Salameh, who has recently been targeted by sanctions by the US, UK and Canada, is wanted by France and Germany on charges of alleged money laundering. He has denied all accusations, stressing that no public money ever entered his private accounts, and denounced what he says is a political campaign to make him a scapegoat for the economy's meltdown.

Many blamed Mr Salameh for the collapse of the Lebanese economy after decades of mismanagement and squandering of public funds. While the international cases into the former bank governor gather pace, with at least nine countries investigating Mr Salameh, in Lebanon an 18-month investigation has come to a standstill.

Updated: August 25, 2023, 6:12 PM