Freezing bank accounts of the Lebanese abroad .. Has Washington withdrawn its sponsorship of Salameh?


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The European political decision, specifically the French, was taken by “ending” the governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salameh, and appointing a replacement. The major blow to him was the request of the Swiss Attorney General’s office for legal assistance from the Lebanese authorities to conduct an investigation after suspected money laundering, embezzlement and transfers from the accounts of Salama and his brother Raja Salameh and his assistant, Marian Howeik, amounting to nearly 400 million dollars. It came months after the deterioration of the relationship between French officials and Salameh, and his refusal to conduct a criminal audit of the accounts of the “central”, and his role in aborting the Hassan Diab government’s plan for “financial reform”, and thus the agreement with the International Monetary Fund. All of these factors contributed to building the file against Salameh, which will be an introduction to the entrapment of political officials. Al-Akhbar learned that, in the last two days, the external bank accounts of more than one individual and a Lebanese company have been frozen under the heading of “fighting corruption,” in preparation for filing legal cases against them.

However, France was not “impatient” with his safety at home, which was a major factor in the explosion of the current crisis, but rather because “restructuring” and “governance” of the Central Bank of Lebanon and all the institutions affiliated with it lie at the core of the Western project for the “New Lebanon”. By the way, the Lebanese-French banker Samir Assaf is not the only name who “praises his biography” French officials during their meetings with Lebanese politicians.

The timing of the case against Salameh, a politician, contributed to ripening the suspicion that Swiss banks were involved in a money laundering scandal, which considers these cases their “daily strength.” Swiss Representative Fabian Morena says, “There is a lot of unclean money hidden in Swiss banks, and the recent biography on this issue is not positive. Annually, several cases of money laundering and embezzlement are investigated».

More important than the French and British pressure is the position of the United States of America on the “safety issue”, so he must either stop the implementation of the verdict against the man or bring him down from the tree that he climbed. Those close to Salameh believe that the United States of America abandoned him as one of its trusted men at home. The expression of this position in Lebanon comes through “the words of the American ambassador, Dorothy Shea, who for more than a month has not been hiding her sharp criticism of him,” which leads, according to sources not far from the US embassy and the governor together, to the conclusion that “the investigation in Switzerland was planned French, but he enjoys American cover, especially since the coordination between Switzerland and the United States is much deeper than the Swiss-European relations. But the ambassador’s words in her councils do not mean that the US cover has been lifted completely from Salameh, as French officials still warn against excessive optimism about the approaching end of the ruler.!

On the US State Department’s website, a report talks about “strong trade relations” between the two countries, and how Switzerland is one of the most important “sources of foreign direct investment in the United States,” in addition to that Switzerland (representing US interests in Iran) is committed to implementing US sanctions against officials and companies. And countries that have been subjected to economic sanctions, such as Venezuela, Russia and Cuba, in a hurry to close their bank accounts, suspend their interests and prevent them from entering the country, even if they do not do what violates local laws. Switzerland’s commercial and financial interests push it to take many political steps, such as the recognition of the Venezuelan coup d’état, Juan Guaidó, even if that leads to its abandonment of its “neutrality.” And in 2013, the “Swiss banks program” was launched in Washington, based on reaching a settlement of “tax evasion” cases involving Swiss banks. And Fabian Molina adds that “coordination with the United States is also taking place in the security and intelligence sector.” What about the judiciary? “Theoretically, they do not interfere, because they do not have the right to interfere in our judiciary. In practice, this happens sometimes, according to the identity of the accused. But the Swiss judiciary is independent».

After hearing Salameh from the cassation public prosecutor, Judge Ghassan Oweidat, it was leaked that the governor wanted to present his statement before the Swiss public prosecutor. The “trust” that accompanied Salameh’s speech and its defenders, raised eyebrows. The international legal expert in economic affairs, lawyer Ali Zbeeb, says that Salameh “knows that it is easier to investigate him in Lebanon, where he has political and sectarian protection. Is it reasonable for him to risk going to Switzerland, where he is accused of money laundering and embezzlement, or is he preparing for a settlement? The Swiss authorities do not need to be considered complicit. Rather, Salameh may be “professional” to the extent that he carried out the transfers in a way that suggests that he did not violate the law, then the characteristic of embezzlement of public funds is lost and is limited to “job exploitation.” Zbeeb considers that “the Swiss judiciary is more confident than its Lebanese counterpart, but we must not forget that Swiss banks are subjected to billions of dollars in penalties, and then return and participate in money laundering operations, because the income from these banking operations is higher than the fines, and because judicial accountability is not harsh . This means the possibility of “under the table” settlements “taking place in the Swiss judiciary.” Most importantly, highlighting the suspicion of embezzlement and money laundering is an accusation against Swiss banks, “and because within every country there is the deep state, its supreme interest is greater than any public interest, and because the banks form the deep state in Switzerland, this may be a catalyst for a settlement. The basis is that Salameh’s operations are job exploitation and that Swiss banks are not involved with it. The key, for Zbeeb, is “in the Lebanese judiciary. Giving Salameh the option to appear before the Swiss judiciary is a scandal against the Lebanese judiciary, which must cooperate, because Article 305 of the Swiss Penal Code, on which the Public Prosecutor’s request was based, cannot be implemented without the cooperation of the Lebanese parties with him.

The data indicate that the Lebanese authorities will send a “recommendation” to Switzerland, stating that they did not find “evidence” of money laundering and embezzlement in Salameh’s transfers, so how will the “plaintiff” act? Fabian Molina says the investigation may be captured by “political pressure and lack of evidence.” It is difficult to continue investigations without the help and cooperation of the Lebanese authorities / the Swiss public prosecutor, in need of evidence, bearing in mind that simply sending the request to Lebanon means that he possesses information that leads to suspicion of the governor of the Central Bank. As for the Swiss banking system, Molina admits that he “has great influence and power in the country, but there have been previous lawsuits in which he was convicted.” With political and press pressure, we can reach a conclusion».

Those close to Salama do not agree with the settlement story, “The case will not be closed, and any loophole will be used to convict him.” They consider that what Salameh has done is “moral, not legal errors, such as appointing his brother to the Swiss investment company and transferring large sums of money.” Therefore, they insist that he “prepared a legal tight file, so he told Oweidat that he wanted to deposit it in full in Switzerland.” In addition, he decided to appear before the Swiss authorities “for three reasons; First, it considers that any decision issued by Lebanon will not be trusted by public opinion. Secondly, his confidence in the law firm that cooperates with him in Switzerland. Third, the Lebanese judiciary prefers not to take up this issue. ” Is Riad Salama finished? “Practically it is over, but he will not leave until he is acquitted of his innocence. And not only is it signed, but the Central Bank as an institution, which will face the challenge of continuing to deal with it by correspondent banks and other central banks. It is not a fleeting matter that the governor be suspected of his involvement in embezzlement and corruption cases. ”

“FINMA” We contacted the Swiss banks involved

With the opening of the case of the governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salameh in Switzerland, and the suspicion of embezzlement and money laundering, in which Swiss banks are also involved, the name «FINMA». It is the federal supervisory authority for the entire Swiss financial sector, including banks, financial companies, insurance and investment funds. The institution defines its duties that “we seek to follow up any indicators of risks, weaknesses, or errors that may be made by the institutions that we supervise, and if necessary, we will take the necessary legal measures.” And watch «FINMAIn particular, adherence to anti-money laundering provisions, as it is considered one of the main risks in the Swiss banking system, commercial relations between financial institutions and politically exposed persons, or trade relations with increased risks. So, how did you conduct yourself in the case in which the governor of the Banque du Liban is suspected? The spokesperson for the Swiss authority answers that “we have contacted the concerned Swiss banks (suspected of being involved in safety transfers), and with the local and international authorities, but we cannot comment on the course of matters with the public prosecutor.” During his follow-up on the case, the Swiss representative, Fabien Morena, criticized the role of “FINMA», Believing that it“ did not monitor the banks as it should, nor did they guarantee the proper functioning of them. We have previously seen many cases where banks do not look well into the identity of their customers because they benefit from their employment. ”

Source: Al-Akhbar – Writer: Lia Al-Qazi


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