Lebanon’s central bank Governor Riad Salameh and his family own a total of $100 million in overseas assets, a report by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and its Lebanese partner Daraj claims.
The wealth, the report claims, has been amassed through companies which appear to be linked to Salameh and his family. Many of the assets are European real estate, mostly in Germany, Belgium and the UK, including a £3.5 million ($4.1 million) flat in Hyde Park.
The central London flat was reportedly purchased by a little-known company registered in Panama in early 2010. By 2013, the Hyde park address was listed as the official residence of Salameh’s son, Nady, though it was still owned by the Panamanian company.
In January 2017 the flat’s legal ownership was transferred to Nady Salameh and the Panamanian registered company was dissolved two months later, according to the report. Adding claims Lebanon’s central bank governor has used several overseas companies in a similar way to amass wealth.
Salameh, who has held the central bank governorship since 1993, has recently come under fire for his handling of Lebanon’s financial crisis with many protesters blaming the 70-year-old’s leadership for causing the crisis.
The central bank governor, who once had a strong reputation and had been touted as a future president of Lebanon, has faced criticism for pegging the lira to the US dollar after the currency collapsed, losing more than 80 per cent of its value, earlier this year.
In a televised address in April, Prime Minister Hassan Diab blamed Salameh for the currency collapse saying there were “gaps in performance, strategies, frankness, clarity [and] monetary policy”.
The central bank governor has also faced fire for the financial engineering programme he introduced in 2016 which hid the true state of the Lebanese economy for years, slowing, but not staving off collapse.
Salameh termed the criticism a “systematic campaign” to steer public opinion against him. Despite heavy criticism of his tenure, the extent of his personal wealth has so far escaped scrutiny.
Responding to OCCRP’s claims, Salameh said he had amassed considerable wealth totalling $23 million before his appointment as governor of the central bank in 1993 through investments and inheritance and that he had not broken any laws.