In a resounding scandal for the Governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salameh, the French customs authorities said that they caught him in flagrante delicto as he smuggled money in his bag last July.
After checking his bags while entering France, about 90,000 euros in cash were found. Salameh was then fined for not declaring the amount, after falsely asserting that it did not contain what should be declared.
In the details, on July 16, the Governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salameh, left Beirut Airport, on a private plane, heading to France.
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His plane, belonging to the Middle East Airlines, landed at Le Bourget Airport, north of the French capital, Paris.
His affairs were going as usual, in terms of exit arrangements from the airport, until the French customs officials asked him if he had anything in his luggage that required his declaration.
Riad Salameh scandal
Salameh replied in the negative. Then the staff asked him if he had the money in cash, and he replied that he had 15,000 euros, the maximum amount that could be brought into France in cash, without being declared. Then, customs officials asked to search safety bags.
They were surprised by the presence of a sum of money in euros, and another in dollars. After “counting” the money, it turned out that what was in the safety bag amounted to 83,000 euros, in addition to the value of about 7,000 euros, in US dollars. 50 cigars were also found in the bags of the Governor of the Banque du Liban.
As a result, Salama was taken to an investigation room to open an official report. His first reaction was that he did not know how that money got into his bag, before he returned and acknowledged his ownership of it, identifying himself as the governor of the Banque du Liban.
He showed the investigators a Lebanese diplomatic passport. When asked about cigars, he replied that they were for personal use. As a result of the customs investigation.
Salameh was forced to pay a fine of 2,700 euros as a result of trying to bring in an amount of money without declaring it. As for the fifty cigars, he was not fined for it.
In the Lebanese accounts, the mentioned amount is very small, compared to what is known about Riad Salameh’s wealth, as well as his style of work since he took over the governorship of the Banque du Liban.
But what happened has many indications, and it can be considered a sample of one of the aspects of the governor’s performance in the “Central” according to the Lebanese newspaper “Al-Akhbar”:
First, while the Lebanese and the general depositors are prohibited from obtaining one dollar, or one euro, from the Lebanese banks that went bankrupt under the rule of Salameh (the opinion of the regulatory authority of the banking sector), the latter carries on his journey from Beirut to Paris about 90,000 euros in cash.
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Second, Riad Salameh violated the law by not declaring the amount at Beirut airport, as well as by not declaring it at the French airport.
Third, Riad Salameh lied to the French customs officials who asked him if he had what he needed to declare, and then lied to them with his first answer when he denied knowing how the money got into his personal bag!
What happened is considered a scandal in any “country” in the world. As for Lebanon, it is expected that the matter will be dealt with as if it is related to the “personal expense” of a rich man, and not as a legal violation committed by an official who bears the bulk of the burden of wasting tens of billions of dollars in public and private funds, which caused Lebanon to plunge into the worst crisis. Economic, financial and monetary in its history.
While it is not possible to be certain of the number of times Salameh transferred cash after the collapse of the banking sector in the fall of 2019, the dealings of customs officials at Le Bourget Airport with him cannot be separated from the French political attitude towards him.
Paris does not hide that it wants to oust Riad Salameh, and it has a “battalion” of alternative candidates, led by Samir Assaf. But what prevents Emmanuel Macron from achieving his goal is the American protection that the governor of the Banque du Liban still enjoys, in addition to an internal political, financial, “monopolistic”, sectarian and media umbrella.
American protection for the Lebanese man
This American protection still, according to sources that follow up on Salameh’s open judicial files in more than one European country, prevents Western judicial authorities from taking an additional step against the ruler.
The Swiss authorities, for example, but not limited to, are still refusing to implement the request sent by the Discriminatory Public Prosecution to its Swiss counterpart on May 26, 2021, aimed at seizing Salameh’s money and property, for the benefit of the Lebanese state.
Likewise, the Lebanese demand was not implemented by the authorities of France and Germany, bearing in mind that the security services in Berlin estimate Salameh’s fortune in Lebanon and the world at about two billion US dollars! She considers that the suspicion that Salameh embezzled, between 2001 and 2015 about $330 million from the Banque du Liban, in partnership with his brother Raja, is “a minor suspicion, because the indicators in our possession indicate the possibility of embezzlement of much higher sums.”
In addition to the foregoing, the Swiss Public Prosecution has not yet provided its Lebanese counterpart with a copy of the contract signed between the Banque du Liban and the “Fawry” company, which is suspected of being a fraudulent front for Salama and his brother.
It is this contract that is suspected to have led to the embezzlement of $330 million on behalf of the Salameh brothers. The irony is that its copy, signed between the Banque du Liban and “Fawry” in Beirut, does not mention Raja Salameh.
As for the copy deposited in Switzerland, it bears the signature of Raja Salameh, according to the sources of the Federal Public Prosecution Office in Berne.
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