On Thursday, August 10, 2023, the United States imposed sanctions on the former Governor of Lebanon’s central bank, Riad Salameh.
According to a statement issued by the U.S Treasury Department, the U.S took the action alongside United Kingdom and Canada, “partners who share the United States’ vision of a Lebanon that is governed for the benefit of the Lebanese people and not for the personal wealth and ambition of Lebanon’s elite.”
The countries announced the sanctions, accusing Salameh of contributing to the breakdown of the rule of law in Lebanon through corrupt actions that enriched himself and his associates.
The sanctions freeze Riad Salameh and his associates’ assets and prohibit transactions between them and U.S citizens or businesses.
“Salameh abused his position of power, likely in violation of Lebanese law, to enrich himself and his associates by funneling hundreds of millions of dollars through layered shell companies to invest in European real estate,” the statement noted.
Salameh has denied the corruption allegations and said that he would challenge them, adding that some of his assets have already been frozen in previous investigations.
The sanctions also apply to the former Central bank Governor’s brother, Raja Salameh and his former Assistant, Marianne Howayek. U.S and UK sanctioned Anna Kosakova, who has a child with Riad Salameh, and the U.S additionally chose to sanction his son, Nady Salameh.
Raja has been accused of aiding his brother’s embezzlement through a brokerage firm he owns called Forry Associates Ltd, which the U.S Treasury described as a shell company based in the Virgin Islands.
Howayek, on the other hand, was accused of transferring hundreds of millions of dollars to the Salamehs from her bank account, which was “far more” than what could be accounted for with her central bank salary.
Nady Salameh was sanctioned as “the publicly registered officer” of companies registered in Luxembourg that purchased high-end real estate worth tens of millions of dollars through subsidiary companies in Belgium and Germany.
Meanwhile, France, Germany, and Luxembourg are investigating Salameh and close associates over alleged financial crimes, including illicit enrichment and the laundering of $330 million.
Paris and Berlin issued Interpol notices on Raid Salameh in May, though Lebanon does not hand over its citizens to foreign countries.
Lord Ahmad Of Wimbledon Calls For Lebanese Leaders To Eliminate Corruption
In a statement, the UK’s Minister of state for the Middle East, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, noted, “The only way to put Lebanon on the path to much-needed economic recovery is for its leaders to stamp out corruption and implement real reforms.”
Canadian Foreign Minister, Melanie Joly stated that the sanctions convey the message that the countries “will not tolerate the acts of significant corruption that have contributed to Lebanon’s economic collapse.”
Riad Salameh, 73, ended his 30-year tenure as Governor of Lebanon’s Central bank on July 31, 2023, while facing investigation and blame for his country’s historic economic crisis.
Salameh has been among the officials most blamed for policies that led to the country’s economic crisis, which drastically reduced the value of the Lebanese pound by around 90% against the US dollar and caused triple-digit inflation.
Moreover, he is being investigated in Lebanon. The Lebanese judiciary had taken his passports and imposed a travel ban immediately after receiving the Interpol notices.
Lebanon has not appointed a new central bank Governor, but a Vice Governor, Wassim Mansouri, has been named Acting Governor. The country has also been without a President for almost a year and is run by a caretaker Cabinet with limited functions.