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Corrupt central bank governor allegedly helped push Lebanon’s economy off the cliff

Lebanon’s economy has collapsed, aided by corrupt monetary policy, embezzlement and illusory regulatory oversight. Here’s an analysis of Riad Salameh’s mismanagement of Banque du Liban during his three decades as its governor.

On July 31, 2023, Riad Salameh retired from a 30-year tenure as the governor of Banque du Liban (BdL), the central bank of Lebanon. Instead of a retirement party and a flattering press release detailing his time at BdL, 16 days later, Wassim Mansouri, Salameh’s successor, froze Salameh’s bank accounts after the U.S., Britain and Canada had imposed sanctions on him for “contributing to the breakdown of the rule of law in Lebanon” following decades of alleged corruption. The international coalition contends that several close to Salameh helped him funnel $330 million in funds from BdL through shell companies to invest in European real estate and illegally amass a fortune. Interpol has issued “red notices” for him — requests to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest him. Also, at least seven European authorities, including French and German prosecutors, have created arrest notices for him.

Lebanese authorities confiscated his Lebanese and French passports in May 2023 to prevent Salameh from fleeing Lebanon, but as of publication his whereabouts were reportedly unknown. (See “Judiciary confiscates passports of Lebanon’s central bank chief after French arrest warrant,” by Bassem Mroue, Associated Press, May 24, 2023 and “Did Salameh leave Lebanon? His agent: ‘If you know, tell me’,” Farah Mansour, Al-Modn, Sept. 23, 2023.)

“By using his position to enrich himself, his family, and his associates in apparent contravention of Lebanese law, Salameh contributed to Lebanon’s endemic corruption and perpetuated the perception that elites in Lebanon need not abide by the same rules that apply to all Lebanese people,” said Under Secretary of the U.S. Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson in August of last year.

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