Friday, May 26, 2023

"Report: French Bank Let Associates of Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Move Funds Unhindered"

Following on April 2'a "Who Is Riad Salame? Lebanon’s Central Bank Chief Accused of Embezzlement".

From the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, May 24:

A report leaked to OCCRP's Lebanese media partner Daraj reveals how French bank BNP Paribas allowed associates of Lebanon's Central Bank Governor, Riad Salame, who is currently under investigation for money laundering and embezzlement, to transfer funds with minimal due diligence.

n 2013, Nabil Aoun, a Lebanese stockbroker and former president of the Lebanese Broker Association, reportedly initiated a transfer of 1.8 million euros in favor of Rise Invest, a Panamanian company beneficially owned by Marianne Houwayek, a close associate of Salame. In the same year, Houwayek purchased an apartment in central Paris for the exact amount transferred.

The transfer, originating from a Swiss company associated with Aoun, was justified as a "parental donation" and was one of many transactions flagged by a European financial intelligence unit investigating Salame's wealth amid accusations that he exploited his position as head of the central bank to enrich himself, his relatives, and his associates.

The leaked report concludes that a link between Salame and the funds deposited in Rise Invest's bank account with BNP Paribas "could not be excluded." It raises concerns about BNP Paribas' insufficient effort to ascertain the origin of the 1.8 million euros and its allowance of the transfer based on minimal documentation, including a nondescript piece of paper, bearing Aoun's name, which stated that he was acting on behalf of Houwayek's father.

Aoun corresponded with the bank through a "private" and "discreet" email address, which the report suggests might belong to Salame. In his note, Aoun specified that the transfer was taking place in a "private capacity" and not as part of a "commercial activity."

BNP Paribas declined OCCRP's request for comment....