Former Lebanon central bank governor Riad Salameh tried to bribe French judiciary

Former Lebanon central bank governor Riad Salameh tried to bribe French judiciary
A new investigation alleges former Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh tried to pay €20 million to stop a French investigation against him.
2 min read
17 November, 2023
Riad Salameh led Lebanon's central bank for three decades. [Getty]

Riad Salameh, Lebanon's former central bank governor, is alleged to have tried to bribe the French and Lebanese judiciary with up to €20 million in payments to stop corruption cases against him, an investigation alleged on Thursday, 16 November. 

The investigation, published by the French investigative publication Mediapart, relies on documents seized by investigators in Paris in June of this year.

In the documents, Marianne Hoayek, a close associate of Salameh, laid out a plan to "stop any Lebanese or French attack" through payments to well-connected political intermediaries.

Riad Salameh is accused of embezzling over US$300 million from the central bank, as well as running a nationwide Ponzi scheme,e which ultimately led to the collapse of the country's banking sector in 2019.

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Salameh is currently under investigation in several European countries for money laundering and had an Interpol red notice issued against him in May 2023 after missing a Paris court hearing.

Salameh has denied all charges against him, describing them as "politically motivated."

Despite charges being filed against him and his brother in Lebanon, Salameh evaded court proceedings after departing office in July – largely assumed to be because of cover from fellow political associates.

According to the Mediapart's investigation, a well-connected Lebanese politician identified as Wiam Wihab, offered to help "mitigate the attack" against Salameh in France.

Some of the proposed methods for stopping or delaying the French investigation were to try to get judges on the case transferred or get the accreditation of the NGO Sherpa, which was the plaintiff, withdrawn.

In return for Wihab and three other individuals' help, Salameh would pay €2 million every month for six months, according to Hoayek's notes.

Wihab has denied all involvement in the matter, saying he had merely "advised Riad Salameh to change law firms."

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Since Lebanon's banking sector collapsed in 2019, Lebanon has been mired in a punishing economic crisis, with the national currency losing 98 per cent of its value and poverty soaring to unprecedented levels.

The government has failed to pass any significant economic reforms, including the passage of any laws that would help promote transparency in the banking sector.