Lebanese PM defends himself after French money laundering complaint

Lebanese PM defends himself after French money laundering complaint
Lebanon's caretaker prime minister has rushed to defend himself after being hit by a complaint accusing him of offences including money laundering.
3 min read
Mikati has repeatedly denied the accusations against him and his family [Getty]

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Wednesday defended his "integrity" and "transparent" assets, following a complaint filed in France accusing him of money laundering and other offences.

Two associations filed a complaint against Mikati with France's financial prosecutor's office, accusing him of fraudulently building up assets in France and other countries, a source close to the case told AFP on Wednesday.

The complains said that the Lebanese public consider Mikati, his brother Taha and their entourage as "the embodiment... of the clientelism and conflict of interest that have led Lebanon to its downfall".

In a statement sent to AFP and other media, Mikati said: "We strongly reaffirm that the source of our family wealth is entirely transparent, legitimate, and in full compliance with the law."

The complaint lodged by the CVPFCL financial crimes victim's collective of Lebanon, and the Sherpa anti-corruption association, accuses Mikati of money laundering, concealment or complicity, and criminal conspiracy as part of an organised gang.

Mikati made his fortune in telecoms and in June 2022 became prime minister of Lebanon for the third time.

The two associations accuse him and his brother of having likely "acquired various properties in France and abroad, via multiple structures and through extremely large financial transfers".

Those include properties in Monaco and Saint Jean-Cap-Ferrat, on France's Mediterranean coast; a 79-metre yacht "acquired for 100 million dollars"; and two Falcon jets, valued at around 95 million dollars.

Taha Mikati also reportedly owns a yacht worth $125 million.

According to Forbes magazine, the two brothers are worth $2.8 billion, making them amongst the richest people in Lebanon.

In his statement, Mikati insisted that no family member nor business "has been found guilty by any court, whether in Lebanon or anywhere else in the world".

The statement added that "attempts to discredit" the family were "unfounded and often politically-motivated".

It said that a Beirut judge in February 2022 and a Monaco court in August 2023 had dismissed charges against the family.

But the plaintiffs claimed that "since the mid-1990s, corruption has been intimately linked to the functioning of the state", which the brothers have benefitted from.

"Mikati's systemic use of offshore accounts and tax havens" and the "culture of corruption and conflicts of interest" that he embodies, make him and his family "widely suspected of large scale laundering (and) tax fraud over many years", added the plaintiffs' lawyers William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth.

Several of the Mikati brothers' children are suspected of receiving some of the allegedly laundered money.

Sherpa previously lodged a complaint against Riad Salameh, the former governor of Lebanon's central bank, who has faced French and German international arrest warrants since 2023, and is sanctioned by the US, Canada, and UK.