Offshore firms linked to Lebanon c. bank governor worth nearly $100 mln: Report

Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh speaks to a reporter at his office in Beirut on December 15, 2017. (AFP)

Offshore companies linked to Lebanon’s central bank governor own assets worth nearly $100 million, a media group said in a report, as his role in Lebanon’s economic turmoil is under intense scrutiny.

The companies tied to Riad Salameh invested in real estate in Britain, Germany and Belgium over the past decade according to a report by a collective of European news outlets called the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a nonprofit media organization, and its Lebanese partner, Daraj.com.

The report by the Sarajevo-based OCCRP does not allege any wrongdoing by Salameh and Reuters has not reviewed any of the documents on which the report is based.

Responding to the report, Salemeh told Reuters he had declared during a TV interview in April his net worth prior to becoming a governor in 1993 and it was $23 million dollars.

“I have shown the supporting documents as a proof. This to eliminate doubts on the origin of my net worth and that it was prior to holding office,” he said.

He said he had previously stated that he asked professionals and trustees to manage his net worth. “The origin of my net worth is clear, this is the important matter,” he said.

Salameh, previously seen as a guarantor of financial stability in the country, has become a focus of anger for street protesters since Lebanon’s financial system collapsed earlier this year under the weight of one of the world’s biggest public debt burdens.

The report into his personal wealth comes at a sensitive time as Lebanon grapples with the aftermath of an enormous chemicals explosion that devastated the capital Beirut, fueling public anger with the country’s leadership.

A soldier stands at the devastated site of the explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon August 6, 2020. (Reuters)

A soldier stands at the devastated site of the explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon August 6, 2020. (Reuters)

The OCCRP report also comes after central bank accounts seen by Reuters last month revealed that Lebanon’s central bank governor inflated the institution’s assets by over $6 billion in 2018, showing the extent of financial engineering used to help prop up the Lebanese economy.

The governor told Reuters last month that the central bank accounting was in line with policies approved by the board.

A Lebanese judge last month ordered a protective freeze on some assets held by the governor after ruling in favor of a complaint that he had allegedly undermined the financial standing of the state.

By the end of 2018, Salameh’s assets were worth more than $94 million, the report said, citing balance sheets of Luxembourg companies controlled by the governor.

Salameh said his declaration on his net worth demonstrated he was not trying to escape public scrutiny and was the proof he has “nothing to hide.”

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Last Update: Wednesday, 12 August 2020 KSA 20:29 - GMT 17:29
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