A French, German and Luxembourg judicial delegation will launch its investigation into Beirut on Monday in Beirut on the activities of the Central Bank of Lebanon and its governor, Riad Salameh. The investigation should continue until Friday.
Salameh is prosecuted in cases related to money transfers from Lebanon to banks from these European countries as well as to the sources of funds and to the extent to which these two could be linked to corruption, money laundering and to financial crime in Europe.
Arab News understands that the central division of criminal surveys, affiliated with the prosecutor’s office in Lebanon, informed the people summoned for an interrogation of the dates where they should come to the Beirut courthouse, from next week. Among these people are present 15 banks, including current and former vice-government of the Central Bank. A judicial source said that Salameh will not yet be questioned at this stage.
European Authorities Had Frozen $ 130 Million
In March 2022, the European authorities had frozen $ 130 million in Lebanese assets and targeted Salameh and four people close to him for an investigation into allegations of embezzlement of public funds.
Judge Ghassan Oueidate met a diplomatic delegation from the French, Germany and Luxembourg Embassies at the Palais de Justice on Thursday. The Lebanese justice has expressed its disapproval as to the way it is dealt with in this case.
Lebanese authorities had been officially informed by a letter that a judicial delegation from the three European countries would arrive in Lebanon to investigate. This delegation includes specialized prosecutors and judges who had informed the Lebanese authorities of their visit thanks to a letter, without formally asking them to conduct this investigation.
According to The Judicial Source
According to the judicial source, it is indeed a strange and unique decision of its kind which generates a deep question on the sovereignty and the relevance of the Lebanese state if foreign countries can simply grant the power to lead surveys on his soil.
It is surprising that the representatives of the three European countries informed Lebanese justice only of the date of arrival of the delegation in Beirut to conduct its investigation as well as the names of the people to question, without requesting assistance or cooperation Lebanese justice. This affects and goes beyond the Authority of Lebanese justice.
“The foreign judicial delegation is not allowed to arrive in Lebanon and to conduct surveys without a letter of solicitation,” said the source.
The convention against corruption signed by Lebanon obliges it to respond to the requests of foreign judicial authorities, provided that the latter respect Lebanese laws. »»
Salameh was severely criticized for its monetary policies and financial engineering operations which have been accused of having contributed to the accumulation of debt and the possible collapse of the Lebanese economy.
It has been the financial justice to him for money laundering for money and embezzlement for 2021 for 2021. He has been governor of the Central Bank since 1993 and his mandate must end in May.
Switzerland has also investigated allegations of embezzlement at the Central Bank, Salameh and its brother being the main suspects.
During their meeting, the Oueidate judge and the members of the delegation followed the regular procedure followed by Lebanon in such cases. The investigation will take place in the court of cassation at the Beirut courthouse and the judicial source said that the Oueidate judge and the members of the delegation agreed to follow during the investigation. He demanded that the investigators send their questions to witnesses through the Lebanese judges who will be present during the hearings, rather than directly addressing those interviewed who will be entitled to lawyers.
“If European judges want to make complaints, let them do it in their country and not during the investigation sessions in Lebanon,” added the source.
“After the complaint, a refund request must be sent to Lebanon. What is certain is that no action can be taken against a Lebanese who was questioned. »»
The source said that Lebanese justice cannot extradite any Lebanese citizen to another country for it to be prosecuted, even if there are conventions signed between countries. Any pursuit of a Lebanese citizen will take place in Lebanese territory, as in the case of Ziad Takieddine.
The latter is a 72-year-old Franco-Lebanese businessman accused by the French justice of financial crimes. It was a key in an investigation into the funding presumed by Libya of the 2007 electoral campaign of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. He told French investigators in 2016 that he had given Sarkozy and his office director for 5 million euros (or $ 5.3 million, 1 euro = 1.07 dollars) in order to financial the Sarkozy campaign . He was detained in Lebanon in 2020 where he was the subject of a French investigation but by being judged by the Lebanese justice.
Likewise, in 2021, French investigators went to Lebanon to question Lebanese businessman Carlos Ghosn. Their questions had been addressed to a Lebanese judge who, in turn, asked them to Ghosn.
This article is originally published on arabnews.fr