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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

EU seizes $130m assets linked to money laundering in Lebanon

EU seizes $130m assets linked to money laundering in Lebanon

Three EU countries seize properties and freeze asset worth $130m linked to embezzlement of public funds in Lebanon.

France, Germany and Luxembourg have seized properties and frozen assets worth 120 million euros ($130m) in an operation linked to money laundering in Lebanon, according to the EU’s justice agency.

“Five properties in Germany and France were seized as well as several bank accounts [were frozen],” Eurojust said in a statement on Monday.

The Hague-based Eurojust said the operation on Friday was directed against five people who were suspected of embezzling public funds in Lebanon of more than $330m between 2002 and 2021.

This included the seizure of three properties in Germany, valued at 28 million euros ($30m) as well as other assets worth seven million euros ($7.6m).

In France, two Paris properties valued at 16 million euros ($17.5m) as well as a bank account with 2.2 million euros ($2.4m) were seized.

In Luxembourg, about 11 million euros ($12m) were frozen in another bank account, Eurojust said.

The agency did not give any details on the suspects, saying, “They are assumed to be innocent until proven guilty”.

Similar cases


French anti-corruption prosecutors opened a probe last year into the personal wealth of Riad Salameh, the central bank chief in crisis-hit Lebanon.

Prosecutors are probing Salameh’s alleged links to criminal associations and money laundering, judicial sources said, following a similar move by Switzerland.

In post since 1993 and once hailed by political and business leaders, Salameh has been repeatedly accused by the government of former caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab of being responsible for the collapse of the Lebanese pound.

The Lebanese public suspect him and other high officials of transferring money abroad during a 2019 uprising, when ordinary people were prevented from doing so.

The 71-year-old former Merrill Lynch banker has defended himself, saying he believed he was being made the scapegoat for the Middle Eastern country’s financial woes.

His lawyers, too, have called for the opening of a judicial probe, saying that “it will give us access to the file” the contents of which “we contest entirely”.

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