Sherpa, a non-governmental organisation that defends victims of economic crimes, filed a complaint in France six months ago regarding “money laundering in connection with the outsourcing of considerable capital from the crisis of autumn 2019, but also suspicious conditions under which real estate was acquired, by private or public Lebanese officials, in recent years, on French territory”. This prompted the French and Swiss judiciary to investigate and subsequently find a maze of companies in many European countries.
On 26 November, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) stated that Luxembourg's justice system has joined the investigation. An investigation that asks how the current governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salameh, who was installed there by the Hariri family and was their personal banker at Merrill Lynch, was able to accumulate hundreds of millions of euros in personal wealth.
Three companies targeted in Luxembourg
In Luxembourg, three companies are targeted, of which Salameh is the final economic beneficiary, Fulwood Invest, BR 209 Invest and Stockwell Investissement.
According to the latest available balance sheets, Stockwell's assets include four commercial properties and four car parks at Feilitzstrasse 7-9, Munich, and a building at Gärtnerplatz 1, also in Munich, acquired in 2017, which brought in more than €400,000 to the company. They were acquired for €6.4m and €3.7m and the company is repaying loans of €4.2 million in Luxembourg and €3.1m in Germany.
Over time, Fulwood has acquired six properties in the UK for £39.1m and sold the King's Court property this year for £11m, taking a £1.2m profit in the process. All these acquisitions were financed by loans from the sole shareholder, BR 209 Invest.
According to the OCCRP, the companies are managed by relatives of the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, namely his son, Nadi Salameh, for Fulwood and BR 209 Invest, and his nephew, Marwan Issa El Khoury, for Fulwood. As the media started publishing, the “accountants” began leaving. For example, Jean Naveaux left Fulwood in early June, as did Jean Gabriel and CD Management, who resigned from Stockwell.
Salameh denies any wrongdoing and maintains that he built up a personal fortune of $23m during his 20-year career at Merrill Lynch, before being appointed as head of Lebanon's central bank.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.