The US, UK, and Canada on Thursday announced coordinated sanctions against Riad Salameh, Lebanon's former central bank governor, and four of his associates "for their role in the diversion of over $300 [million]" from the bank's coffers.
"Riad Salameh’s actions benefited himself and his close associates at the expense of the Lebanese people. His brother Raja Salameh, former assistant Marianne Hoayek, and former partner Anna Kosakova financially benefited from this corruption, lining their pockets with money belonging to the Lebanese people," the statement issued by the UK government reads.
In another harshly-worded statement, the US Treasury Department says, "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 US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also placed the disgraced former official on the specially designated nationals and blocked persons list.
Salameh is also wanted by France and Germany under charges of illicit enrichment and the laundering of $330 million in Lebanese public funds. Two Interpol red notices have been issued against him; however, Beirut does not extradite its nationals.
He faces other criminal investigations for money laundering and corruption in Luxembourg, the UK, Switzerland, and Lebanon. The accusations stem from the activities of Forry Associates, a brokerage firm established by Salameh and his brother Raja that took hundreds of millions in fees for brokering the sale of Lebanese government bonds between 2002 and 2015. At least $200 million was allegedly transferred to Salameh’s accounts in Lebanese commercial banks.
The decades-long Ponzi scheme established by the Salameh brothers at the Banque du Liban (BDL) finally became unsustainable in 2019 and began to collapse.
This resulted in a historic financial crisis that slashed the value of the Lebanese lira by 98 percent and wiped out the life savings of a majority of citizens, pushing eight out of every 10 Lebanese below the poverty line. Some estimates of losses for bank depositors have amounted to roughly $111 billion.
The Salameh brother’s embezzlement scheme also involved using real estate properties in France and Germany by using the money of Lebanese citizens to pay exorbitant rent for luxury apartments owned by Salameh and his close relatives in Paris and to secure monthly stipends of 30,000 euros for Salameh’s girlfriend and daughter.
I can’t say I was surprised to know there are journalists on the payroll of #RiadSalameh. We know the list is longer and includes even bigger names. But to read official details and see how this was done is just stunning, even by Lebanese standards https://t.co/Wp5vmm3hPs— aliaibrahim عليا ابراهيم (@aliaibrahim74) August 4, 2023
French news reports say Ms. Kosakova, Salameh's former lover, is one of the direct beneficiaries of Forry's commissions through Forri (for First Overseas Relation for Realty and Investment Ltd), a company she created in Cyprus in 2004.
Salameh exited the BDL earlier this month after a 30-year tenure during which he personally took all the measures and made all the decisions that led to Lebanon’s economic collapse.