The preliminary investigation, which is being conducted by French financial prosecutors, began to charge Salameh with involvement in crimes and involvement in money laundering.
A source familiar with the progress of the investigations said that this action comes after a similar move by the authorities in Switzerland.
The results of the French investigation are expected to shed light on the personal wealth of the former Merrill Lynch banker.
Salameh, who is close to the powerful Hariri family in Lebanon, has been under investigation for several months by the Swiss authorities, who suspect him of involvement in large-scale money laundering and embezzlement from the Banque du Liban.
The Swiss Foundation “Accountability Now” had filed a criminal complaint, which prompted the French authorities to open an investigation with the head of the monetary authorities in Lebanon, according to the French newspaper Le Monde.
The Sherpa Foundation for Combating Financial Crime and the Foundation for the Victims of Fraudulent and Criminal Practices in Lebanon, which was founded by a number of savings owners in Lebanese banks affected by the consequences of the 2019 crisis, submitted similar complaints to the French authorities.
William Bordeaux and Emily Lefebever, lawyers with the Shipra Foundations and the victims’ group, said the French move signaled the start of a “widespread international investigation across Europe”.
The two lawyers expressed their hope that investigations would be opened into “large money laundering operations that should not leave closed doors hiding behind the mafia that kneeled in Lebanon.”
The criminal complaints, which were reviewed by Agence France-Presse, included accusations of Riad Salameh, his brother Raja, his brother and his assistant in the central bank, a club that created a huge fortune in Europe by fraud.
The anti-financial crime groups urged the judiciary to investigate all financial flows out of Lebanon since the beginning of the severe economic crisis, in addition to investigating all real estate purchases without proving the income of buyers, and the role of financial intermediaries, tax havens and others whose names are used to purchase such real estate outside the country.
“2 billion dollars”
Prosecutors in the complaints against Salameh, according to reports published by Daraj.com and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, estimate the fortune of the Central Bank of Lebanon’s worldwide governor at about $2 billion.
But the Lebanese official, who is under investigation into the sources of his wealth, denies this, claiming that most of this wealth passed to him through inheritance, his financial dues throughout his work in the banking sector, and legitimate investment returns that have accumulated over the period since 1993 until now.
The governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, who has held this position for nearly 30 years, is facing criticism for the unprecedented collapse of the Lebanese economy.
There is a state of public anger over the restrictions imposed on withdrawing deposits from Lebanese banks, amid suspicions that Salameh and a number of senior officials transferred large sums of money outside the country at the time of the crisis.
Although senior officials and businessmen praised Salameh’s performance since he assumed the position of Governor of the Banque du Liban in 1993, the caretaker government in Lebanon headed by Hassan Diab blamed the head of the monetary authorities in Lebanon, blaming him for the collapse of the local currency in the country.
Lebanon has been experiencing a severe financial crisis since the events of 2019, and the World Bank describes this crisis as the most severe since the nineteenth century.
The Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon also owns real estate in France, in addition to reports suggesting that he transferred huge sums of money outside the country.
The French investigation into the sources of Riad Salameh’s wealth is a link in a series of investigations that began recently into the “graft” of a number of foreign leaders and leaders, especially in Africa and the Middle East.