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The central bank chief in Switzerland has investigated a fake $ 300m scam

A Swiss attorney general is investigating allegations that the Lebanese bank’s chief of staff and his brother stole more than $ 300m from the agency in a bid to secure a maritime company.

“Since April 2002, it appears that the governor of the central bank, Riad Salame, with the help of his brother, Raja Salame, has devised a plan to rob them. . . more than $ 300m damaging Banque du Liban [BdL], ”The Swiss Attorney General’s Office has written a letter to the Lebanese government requesting that both parties work together legally.

The letter, which was sent in November last year, was released and is available online on the Lebanese website. A Lebanese official confirmed the letter was true. The Swiss Attorney General’s Office confirmed to FT “an investigation into allegations of money laundering… In connection with the possible repercussions of the Banque du Liban”, and that he had sought the help of “Lebanese” competitors “. He declined to comment further.

In an interview with FT this week, the central banker did not deny that the incident took place. But he said “not a single dollar that worked on the aforementioned project disrupted the BdL,” adding: “All this was approved by [BdL’s] middle board ”.

It is the most recent atrocities that have befallen Lebanon’s central bank, which has been credited with establishing a weakened state through regional wars and global economic crises. But Salamis, who claims to be the mastermind of the fraudulent campaign, has been under threat since local currency collapsed and exploded. It is a world that suffers greatly economic and financial crises For 30 years, many Lebanese people have accused him, as well as the politicians of this country, regardless of financial management and stockpiles.

The Swiss Attorney General is investigating cases involving more than $ 330m generated between 2002 and 2015, from an account in BdL to an HSBC Switzerland account called “Forry Associates”, according to the letter. Swiss researchers say the undisclosed maritime company is controlled by Salame’s brother, Raja. Hundreds of millions have been transferred from Forry to a Swiss bank account run by all of Salames, investigators say in the letter.

The BdL granted Forry an exclusive agreement in 2002, said the letter, signed by Riad and Raja Salame. The former Lebanese banks, which are well versed in selling bonds at the time Forry had an agreement with BdL, said they had not heard of the company.

Of the $ 333m transferred to Forry, $ 248m was sent to Raja Salame’s account at HSBC, Swiss researchers told their Lebanese colleagues in the letter, much of which has been widely reported in Swiss and Lebanese newspapers. About $ 10m went to two accounts allegedly investigated by Riad Salame, the so-called “Westlake Commerce Inc” in Panama at Julius Baer, ​​and the Swiss-registered “SI 2 SA”At EFG Bank in Zurich. More than 7m Swiss francs went from SI 2 SA to a UBS account called “Red Street 10 SA, ”Used to buy Swiss property, researchers say. Red Street translates “Sharia Hamra” into Arabic, the street from Beirut where the BdL headquarters is.

Riad Salame declined to say who fired Forry, if his brother had signed a contract, or if he was behind Westlake or SI 2 SA. He also said the BdL account that paid Forry was a “cleaning account”, and that the money came from “those involved in the operation”.

“[T]The money you are talking about is 14 years old, not a single shot once, then it is almost no more than $ 20m a year, “added Salame. Denying the controversy, Salame said Forry” was not alone because there was no special assistance “. millions of dollars, Salame said: “Is this illegal? Which would be illegal [is] like us [ie. BdL] he was paying for the service. ”

Registered in the British Isles in 2001, Forry broke away in 2016, BVI records show. The cast records show that Forry was of Nomihold, another BVI registration company with hidden owners. FT could not connect to Nomihold.

Raja Salame, a member of Lebanon’s largest company Solidere, declined to comment. “My loyalty is unshakable. I always get my money’s worth, “he told FT.

Four former BdL members, who worked on time and did not speak for name, said they did not remember acknowledging Forry’s actions. Riad Salame declined to show documents confirming what the central agencies, claiming to be confidential to the bank.

Swiss researchers, who claim about $ 50m in Swiss stockpiles by Riad Salame, are also investigating $ 15m from bank accounts in BdL to Salame accounts in UBS, Credit Suisse and Banque Pictet & CIE between 2012 and 2019. Salame said BdL accounts were his, he transferred his money, and rejected a transfer that took place in 2019. He also said where his wealth comes from the $ 23m he earned as a bank before he became an ambassador in 1993.

Credit Suisse, HSBC Switzerland, UBS and Julius Baer said they were not allowed under Swiss law to respond to customer concerns. In a statement, Pictet & Cie said: “Our views should not be answered on issues that should be investigated, especially if people’s names are at risk.” It also said it was in agreement with the authorities.

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