Riad Salameh's inner circle planned to thwart corruption probe, investigation reveals

Senior adviser at Lebanon's central bank designed plan to 'destroy the case' against Salameh in exchange for payments to intermediaries

Riad Salameh greets employees on his last working day as the head of the central bank in Beirut. EPA
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Riad Salameh's inner circle allegedly orchestrated a “corruption project” with the aim of obstructing the French investigation into the former governor of Lebanon's central bank through payments worth at least €20 million, French investigative media outlet Mediapart revealed on Thursday.

The plan was allegedly designed by Marianne Hoayek, a senior adviser at Lebanon's central bank and former assistant to Mr Salameh.

The goal was to “destroy the case”, “reassign the judge” and “halt any Lebanese or French action” against Mr Salameh and his associates, according to handwritten notes describing the plan that were discovered in a safe at Ms Hoayek's Paris residence during a police raid.

Ms Hoayek is under formal investigation in France for money laundering as part of an inquiry into the alleged embezzlement of more than $330 million on June 26.

She admitted to the judiciary during her hearing on June 30 to writing the notes in French and English and “presented them to the governor”. But she said that the project had not materialised, according to Mediapart's investigation, based on judicial files.

The plan was described by French investigators as a “project of corruption”.

One plot listed included the payment of sums to intermediaries in August 2022 in exchange to “promise to monitor and prevent any Lebanese or French interference through any means (legal proceedings, judicial communications, information that may harm our case)” from Beirut or Paris, according to the handwritten notes quoted by Mediapart.

Former minister Wiham Wahab is alleged to one of the intermediaries proposed in the plan to the ex-governor. Mr Wahab he denied any involvement when contacted by French media.

Mr Salameh's lawyer in Paris, Pierre-Olivier Sur, responded to the allegations by saying that, “such an operation can only inspire disapproval”.

Ms Hoayek did not respond to The National's request for comment.

Mr Salameh, Lebanon's former central bank governor, has been under investigation for embezzlement and money laundering since July 2021 by the French judiciary. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

He is under scrutiny in several domestic and international investigations for the alleged embezzlement of $330 million from Lebanon's central bank. The money was allegedly funnelled into properties across Europe and the UK, where more than $130 million worth of assets associated with him have been frozen.

He is subject to two international arrest warrants issued by France and Germany and sanctions by the US, the UK and Canada.

Updated: November 17, 2023, 7:37 PM