Activists file legal complaint over alleged Lebanon corruption, money laundering

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Non-profit organization Sherpa and a group of lawyers have filed a legal complaint to France’s financial prosecutor against Lebanese Central Bank Riad Salameh over alleged corruption and money laundering, an official at Sherpa said on Monday.

Sherpa said in a statement the legal complaint, filed on Friday, was over “suspicious” real estate purchases in France and that the aim was to return the property to the Lebanese people.

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The complaint covers millions of euros worth of property assets in France and also targets Salameh’s brothers and an associate, said Laura Rousseau, head of the illicit financial flows program at Sherpa, in comments to Reuters.

Salameh, who has led Lebanon’s central bank since 1993, was not immediately available for comment. He has previously denied allegations of corruption and has said he has been targeted by a smear campaign.

“The complaint lodged not only targets money laundering in connection with the outsourcing of considerable capital from the fall 2019 crisis, but also the suspicious circumstances under which some very luxurious real estate in France has been acquired by private or public Lebanese officials in recent years,” Sherpa said in a statement.

Its statement did not identify any individuals.

France’s National Financial Prosecutor was not immediately available for comment.

Lebanon’s financial and political elite have long been under scrutiny over allegations of mismanagement, corruption and obstructing efforts to unlock international aid.

It is the latest complaint filed on suspected Lebanese corruption to authorities in Europe.

Sherpa said it had filed the complaint with the Collective Association of Victims of Fraudulent and Criminal Practices in Lebanon.

“At the end of this affair, France will have to ensure that ill-gotten funds will be returned to serve the general interest, improve the living conditions of the Lebanese, strengthen the rule of law and fight against corruption,” the statement said.

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