Activists Call for Investigation of 3 Swiss Banks in Lebanon Central Banker
Seven activist groups have asked the Swiss financial supervisory authority, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), to open an investigation into the relations between three Swiss banks and the governor of the central bank of Lebanon , according to The National.
Riad Salame, 71, has frequently found himself at the center of various investigations into accusations of money laundering, both by Lebanon and by no less than five European countries, including the UK, Belgium and Germany .
The latest complaint came after an international group of journalists published an investigation which exposed Credit Suisse’s shady business practices. The revelations opened up a discussion about Switzerland’s banking secrecy laws and the ethics of its banks.
The issue again brought up Salame’s alleged illicit activities. The seven activist groups from Switzerland and Lebanon have raised concerns that the three banks conspired to help the central bank governor launder misappropriated funds.
Specifically, they asked FINMA to investigate whether the banks facilitated the embezzlement of millions of dollars from the Lebanese people.
“What we are looking for is to know how and why these banks continue to provide havens for the corrupt and we think this is very important for the Lebanese but also for the reputation of Switzerland,” the lawyer said. from Accountability Now, Zina Wakim, at the local OCCRP office. media partner Daraj.
“The three banks appear to have failed in their anti-money laundering obligations by helping Mr. Salame and his entourage to secure funds that appear to be ill-gotten and derived from corruption,” Wakim added.
As the Swiss government body responsible for enforcing the country’s financial regulations, FINMA answers only to parliament and is authorized to initiate investigations, sanction banks, revoke their licenses and submit their files to the office of the attorney if necessary.
“We can confirm that we have been or are in contact with the relevant banks in the Lebanese context and that AML compliance [anti-money laundering] due diligence requirements play an important role in our supervisory activities,” FINMA spokesman Tobias Lux told The National.
Salame has been the subject of such investigations for several years now.
In August 2020, he, his assistant and his brother, Raja Salame, played central roles in OCCRP’s investigation into Lebanon’s offshore governor, which revealed how the family managed to quietly invest nearly $100 Americans in foreign real estate markets.
The governor has in the past responded to charges such as “fabrications and false news” and threatened those who report his alleged wrongdoings with the possibility of a trial.
Moreover, he resolved to obstruct the investigation by refusing to speak with the Lebanese judge Ghada Aoun. The reason why, according to The National, is that he believes her to be openly hostile towards him.
When Aoun sent officers to detain Salame for questioning a few weeks ago, he managed to slip under their radar and evade capture.
Apparently, despite the authorities’ inability to locate him, he reportedly told the Financial Times a few days later that “I’m home and at the central bank.”