Make Kitco Your Homepage

Lebanon's chief is suspect in 120 mln euro asset freeze case -German prosecutor

Kitco News

BEIRUT/MUNICH, March 28 (Reuters) - Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh is a suspect in a case which the European Union's criminal justice agency said on Monday had led to the freezing of some 120 million euros ($132 million) of Lebanese assets, prosecutors in Germany said.

The properties and bank accounts, linked to five people suspected of embezzling some $330 million, were seized in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco and Belgium, Eurojust said in a statement, which did not identify any suspects.

An email from Munich prosecutors said the Eurojust statement referred to investigations concerning Governor Salameh, whose wealth is being investigated in at least five European states and who was charged last week by a Lebanese judge with illicit enrichment.

A Eurojust spokesperson declined to comment further and declined to name the suspects, in line with regulations.

"Despite the outcome of the action day, the suspects in the main investigation are assumed to be innocent until they have been proven guilty, according to law," the Eurojust statement said.

Salameh, governor for nearly three decades, has previously denied accusations against him.

A spokesperson for the central bank did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. A lawyer for Riad Salameh did not immediately respond to emailed questions from Reuters on Monday.

Eurojust has been involved in coordinating meetings between countries probing Salameh, who Swiss prosecutors suspect of embezzling some $330 million along with his brother, Raja, according to a letter the Swiss attorney general sent to Lebanese officials last year, which was seen by Reuters.

Germany, France, Luxembourg and Lichtenstein are also investigating Salameh.

A diplomat from one of the countries where the assets were seized confirmed the asset freeze was related to the probes into Salameh and his brother Raja.

The Eurojust statement said the assets seized included some 35 million euros worth in Germany that included properties in Hamburg and Munich, two property complexes in Paris worth 16 million euros, and Monaco bank accounts worth 46 million euros.

The case in which Riad Salameh was charged in Lebanon is related to the purchase and rental of Paris apartments, including some to the central bank.

Denying the charge against him in Lebanon last week, Salameh told Reuters he had ordered an audit which showed public funds were not a source of his wealth.

His brother, Raja, has been arrested for more than a week on a charge of complicity in the same case.

A lawyer for Raja Salameh has called the charge against his client unfounded.

($1 = 0.9121 euros)

Reporting by Timour Azhari in Beirut, David Villars-Gauthier in Turkey and Christina Amann in Germany; Writing by Timour Azhari and Tom Perry; editing by John Stonestreet, Ed Osmond and David Evans
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.