US, others sanction Lebanon’s ex-bank chief

In a coordinated effort, the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada have enforced sanctions against Riad Salameh, the former longstanding governor of Lebanon’s central bank. The move comes amid allegations of corruption and is aimed at addressing his alleged role in undermining Lebanon’s rule of law while benefiting himself and his associates.

The sanctions were officially declared on Thursday, with the three nations asserting that Salameh had engaged in activities that eroded the foundations of legality within Lebanon through corrupt practices that not only enriched himself but also those in his circle.

The US Department of the Treasury issued a statement, asserting that Salameh had exploited his authoritative position, potentially contravening Lebanese legal norms, to amass personal wealth along with his associates. The funds in question, allegedly in the hundreds of millions of dollars, were allegedly funneled through intricate networks of shell companies to be invested in real estate ventures across Europe.

The scope of the sanctions encompasses not only Riad Salameh but also extends to his brother Raja Salameh and former assistant Marianne Hoayek. Additionally, Washington and London have extended sanctions to Anna Kosakova, who shares a child with Riad Salameh, while the US alone has chosen to sanction his son Nady Salameh.

The punitive measures include the freezing of assets belonging to Riad Salameh and his affiliated individuals, accompanied by restrictions on transactions involving them and American citizens or businesses.

Melanie Joly, the Canadian Foreign Minister, emphasized that these sanctions send a clear and unwavering message that these countries will not tolerate acts of considerable corruption, which have significantly contributed to Lebanon’s current economic crisis.

Riad Salameh has categorically refuted the allegations of corruption, vowing to contest them in a legal capacity. He further noted that certain portions of his assets had already been subject to freezing during earlier investigations.

A Diminished Legacy

Riad Salameh, the once-celebrated former governor of Lebanon’s central bank, Banque du Liban, concluded his extended tenure on July 31. Regarded as a financial luminary in his prime, Salameh’s reputation has since been marred by the collapse of Lebanon’s banking sector and the mounting corruption allegations both within and beyond his nation’s borders.

In February, Salameh was formally charged within Lebanon with embezzlement, money laundering, and tax evasion.

Subsequently, in May, both French and German authorities issued warrants for his arrest, accompanied by Interpol red notices, designating him as a wanted individual in connection to money laundering charges.

As of March the preceding year, France, Germany, and Luxembourg had collectively seized assets totaling 120 million euros ($135 million) in an investigative pursuit of his wealth.

Sources within European diplomatic circles have indicated that Salameh may soon face trial in Paris.

Salameh remains steadfast in his assertion that he is being unjustly scapegoated for the dire economic crisis afflicting Lebanon. The nation’s currency has plummeted by a staggering 98 percent against the US dollar, a situation that many attribute to systemic corruption by state officials. Salameh and his associates have not been spared from accusations of mishandling the country’s economic affairs, further fueling public discontent.

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