In the context, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar said today, Friday, that the issue of the Swiss official request for Lebanese legal aid in an ongoing investigation into the suspicion of embezzlement and money laundering at the Banque du Liban has reacted.
This was mentioned in an official request that was conveyed by the Swiss ambassador in Beirut, Monica Schmoods Kerguz, to Minister of Justice Marie-Claude Negm a few weeks ago. It is a 22-page request that includes many details that focus on following the path of financial transfers that left the Central Bank of Lebanon to accounts belonging to Raja Salameh (the ruler’s brother) and Marian Howayek (his main assistant) during previous years.
Concerned sources found that the direct approach from the ambassador to the Minister of Justice was aimed at preserving the confidentiality of the file. This is what prompted her government not to send it in the traditional way, that is, through correspondence that the Ministry of Justice in Switzerland conducts to the Ministry of Justice in Lebanon through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But the ambassador herself and the Minister of Justice are surprised at how the news spread so quickly, and is now happening.
The newspaper explained that according to the mechanism, the discriminatory deputy, after hearing the governor of the Banque du Liban, must prepare a list of questions and send them to the Special Investigation Commission through the government commissioner, which may impose a routine that allows even political interference, given that the other dilemma is related to Salameh himself being president The Special Investigation Commission is being handled through the assumption of his deputy, Wasim Mansouri, as Salameh had previously authorized him to undertake tasks on his behalf.
The newspaper pointed out that Salama, who listened to Oweidat’s questions yesterday, provided specific answers that focus on the following:
First: No transfer operations took place in the period following October 17, 2019, and all operations were ongoing before June 2016.
Second: The transfers took place from his own account at the Banque du Liban, and there is no income to any other accounts belonging to the Banque du Liban or any institution affiliated to it with these transfers.
Third: He is ready to face the Swiss judiciary directly by going to Bern for this purpose.
Fourth: Salameh accuses political parties and political organizations that take a civil and human rights character of being behind the campaign, and that he intends to prosecute these parties and personalities and anyone who participates in “defaming his reputation” or “negatively affecting the general financial situation of Lebanon and the central financial institutions, especially the Central Bank of Lebanon.
After the meeting with Oweidat, Salama published a brief statement in which he said that he had confirmed that no transfers were made from the accounts of Banque du Liban or from its budgets. ”He also provided to Awaidat“ all the answers to the questions that he brought on the original, as well as on behalf of the Swiss Attorney General. ”
Al-Akhbar stated that the investigations in Switzerland focus on several matters, including: the nature of the funds that were transferred to these accounts, and why they were carried out in the name of Salama’s brother and his assistant, the direction of using these funds, and the follow-up of the real estate and financial assets file of the group (Salama, his brother Raja and his assistant Marian Howeik) in All of Europe and the endeavor to listen to the safety of himself and his brother and to assist him and all «those who help the investigation and scrutiny of the source of the funds that were used in the transfers and from where came the amount of approximately 352 million dollars to the accounts of Salama and his brother and his assistance.
The newspaper added that there is another side to the crisis, which appears through a discussion in Switzerland and Europe itself, where more than one European ambassador to Lebanon said that the criminal financial audit would take place by the Europeans as long as the Lebanese refused to do it. Even if it was in response to lawsuits filed by Lebanese abroad or depositors in Lebanese banks who have lost the ability to use their money. These ambassadors deny that there is any possibility to stop this judicial process, especially since part of it is related to accusations by European banks and financial institutions of involvement in Lebanese money laundering operations.
Al-Akhbar said that in the outcome of extensive contacts that took place during the past 48 hours in Lebanon, and included a wide range of political officials, bankers, financiers, media, judicial and security figures who took care of Salameh’s file, the concern is that there may be a Western decision to overthrow an entire political class by way of a conviction safety. This appears in contrast to the efforts of Western capitals to focus the pressure exclusively on Hezbollah’s allies. Not to mention that all past experiences confirm that Americans, like Europeans, never set their sights on safety as a goal in itself.
She added, however, that it is difficult to separate the issue with its timing from the political context. The French had previously proposed the necessity of dismissing Salameh and conducting an audit of the Bank of Lebanon’s accounts, but at the time they were faced with an American political protection for the Washington man in the banking sector, which was clearly expressed by the American ambassador in Beirut, and with a sectarian protection expressed by Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai. The French attempt to dismiss Salameh ended at that point, although Paris had more than one candidate to succeed him, including from the Lebanese interior.
Accordingly, moving the file in Switzerland during the US transitional period can only be viewed as a new attempt at least to embarrass it. After it became clear to the French that Salameh could not be removed while preserving his face against the backdrop of his administration of the Central Bank, he throws the file that he is personally involved in this time to embarrass him, so he gets it out.
Al-Akhbar indicated that what strengthens the hypothesis of the political context to move the judicial file today is that the report, according to which the Swiss Public Prosecution opened the investigation, was prepared in 2016 on Salame’s transfers at the request of French “sovereign bodies”, according to “Al-Akhbar” information. But the question arises, will the Americans intervene again to protect Salameh? Does the existence of criminal suspicion about it allow them to intervene with Switzerland or deter them?
The newspaper said that in any case, the constant in the case, whatever its outcome, is that the stranglehold has intensified around Riad Salameh, who in his statement did not forget to reserve the right to legal prosecution against all who insist on spreading malicious rumors and insults that personally affect me as they harm Lebanon’s financial reputation. . In all cases, and whatever the result of the Swiss investigation, Riad Salameh was officially turned into a suspect by the Swiss public prosecutor.
This time, regardless of the safety of its soldiers, followers and beneficiaries in politics, the media, and religious institutions, none of them will be able to convince anyone that the Swiss Public Prosecutor is acting based on a Lebanese political maliciousness. As in financial engineering, for example.