UK crime agency considers investigating Lebanon corruption report, sources say

Britain's organised crime agency is reviewing a report submitted by London-based lawyers accusing Lebanon's central bank governor Riad Salameh and associates of money laundering and corrupt practices. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 April 2021

UK crime agency considers investigating Lebanon corruption report, sources say

  • London-based lawyers accuse Lebanon's central bank governor Riad Salameh and associates of money laundering and corrupt practices
  • Salameh told Reuters he read a copy of the report and described it as part of a smear campaign

PARIS/BEIRUT — Britain’s organized crime agency is reviewing a report by a group of London-based lawyers which accuses Lebanon’s central bank governor Riad Salameh and associates of money laundering and corrupt practices, four sources familiar with the matter said.
The 76-page report, seen by Reuters, outlines what it says are assets, companies and investment vehicles in Britain worth hundreds of millions of pounds which it alleges Salameh, members of his family and his associates used over years to divert funds out of Lebanon.
Salameh, who has led Lebanon’s central bank since 1993, told Reuters he had read a copy of the report and described it as part of a smear campaign.
“They are false allegations,” he said.
London-based legal practice Guernica37 submitted the report to British police late last year, two of the sources said.
They said it was then referred to Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA). The report was prepared on behalf a group from Lebanese civil society in the diaspora.
“We can confirm we have received that report, but we are not in a position to comment further,” a spokesman for the NCA said, declining to say whether an investigation had been launched.
Two of the sources said NCA’s financial investigation unit was carrying out a scoping exercise, a form of preliminary investigation, to determine whether there were sufficient grounds to start a formal investigation.
Lebanon’s financial and political elite have been under growing scrutiny over years for alleged mismanagement, corruption and obstructing efforts to unlock international aid, particularly since a massive explosion at Beirut port eight months ago plunged the country deeper into distress.
The Guernica37 probe is one of several underway or being planned in Europe that target officials in Lebanon’s financial sector and its broader political class.
The Swiss attorney general’s office said in January it had requested legal assistance from Lebanon in the context of a probe into “aggravated money laundering” and possible embezzlement tied to the Lebanese central bank.
In response to questions from Reuters, the Swiss attorney general’s office did not say whether Salameh was a suspect and declined further comment. Salameh has denied any wrongdoing.
Lebanon’s banking system is at the heart of a financial crisis that erupted in late 2019. Banks have blocked most transfers abroad and cut access to deposits as dollars grew scarce. The meltdown has crashed the currency, prompted a sovereign default and fueled widespread poverty.
Guernica37 co-founder Toby Caldman said in a statement to Reuters that the group’s report was one of a number of legal filings it had prepared on Lebanon for the British authorities.
“Our intention is to address, investigate and expose all pillars of alleged corruption in the country,” he said.


Sudan’s Burhan relieves civilian members of the sovereign council from duties

Updated 06 July 2022

Sudan’s Burhan relieves civilian members of the sovereign council from duties

  • Army would not participate in internationally led dialogue efforts to break its stalemate with the civilian opposition

CAIRO: Sudan’s military leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan issued a decree relieving the five civilian members of the sovereign council from their duties, a statement on the council’s telegram account said on Wednesday.
Burhan said on Monday the army would not participate in internationally led dialogue efforts to break its stalemate with the civilian opposition, and urged political and revolutionary groups to start talks to form a transitional government.


Palestinian killed during Israeli raid in West Bank

Updated 06 July 2022

Palestinian killed during Israeli raid in West Bank

  • At least 50 Palestinians have been killed since late March, mostly in the West Bank

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: A Palestinian man was killed by the Israeli military during a raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Rafiq Riyad Ghannem, 20, was “shot by the occupation (Israeli army)” near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, the ministry said in a statement, adding that he was killed in the town of Jaba.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Sunday, a 17-year-old Palestinian died after being shot a day earlier in another Israeli army raid in the same town.
At least 50 Palestinians have been killed since late March, mostly in the West Bank, among them suspected militants and non-combatants.
Israeli security forces have launched near-daily raids in the West Bank following a spate of attacks in Israel in recent months.
Nineteen people — mostly Israeli civilians inside Israel — have been killed mainly in attacks carried out by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Three Arab Israeli attackers have also been killed.


Palestinian president and Hamas chief hold rare meeting

Updated 06 July 2022

Palestinian president and Hamas chief hold rare meeting

ALGIERS: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met publicly for the first time in over five years, on the sidelines of Algerian independence anniversary celebrations.
Algeria’s state broadcaster reported late Tuesday that representatives of the Palestinian Authority and the Islamist Hamas movement also attended this meeting, which it called “historic.”
The pair, who officially last met face-to-face in Doha in October 2016, were brought together in a meeting with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, whose country marked the 60th anniversary of independence from France.
Abbas’ secular Fatah party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority that rules the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has been at loggerheads with Hamas since elections in 2007, when the Islamists took control of Gaza.
Tebboune and Abbas also signed a document to name a street “Algeria” in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
As well as Abbas and Haniyeh, Tebboune on Tuesday hosted several foreign dignitaries, who watched a huge military parade to mark independence in 1962 when Algeria broke free from 132 years of French occupation.


Algeria to re-open land border with Tunisia: president

Updated 05 July 2022

Algeria to re-open land border with Tunisia: president

  • "We have taken the joint decision to reopen the land border from July 15," said President Abdelmadjid Tebboune
  • He was speaking at Algiers airport alongside his Tunisian counterpart President Kais Saied

ALGIERS: Algeria said Tuesday it would reopen its land border with Tunisia later this month, more than two years after it was shut at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have taken the joint decision to reopen the land border from July 15,” said President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
He was speaking at Algiers airport alongside his Tunisian counterpart President Kais Saied, who was leaving the country after attending a huge parade marking 60 years since Algeria’s independence from France.
Passengers had been blocked from crossing the border since March 2020 to stop the Covid-19 illness spreading, although cargo traffic had continued.
Being cut off from a neighbor of some 44 million people has dealt a serious blow to Tunisia’s tourism industry.
More than three million Algerians usually visit the country every year, according to local media.
Air and sea links between the two countries were restored in June 2021.


Egypt FM attending freedom of religion conference in London

Updated 05 July 2022

Egypt FM attending freedom of religion conference in London

  • Societies that allow their people to choose what they believe are better, stronger and ultimately more successful

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is attending the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in London.

The event, which is being held on July 5-6, is hosting 500 religious, government and civil society leaders from 60 countries to call for more action to protect freedom of religion or belief around the world.

In the opening speech of the conference, the UK’s Prince Charles said in a recorded message: “Freedom of conscience, of thought and of belief is central to any truly flourishing society. It allows people to contribute to their communities without fear of exclusion, to exchange ideas without fear of prejudice, and to build relationships without fear of rejection. A society where difference is respected, where it is accepted that all need not think alike, will benefit from the talents of all of its members.”

Speaking at the conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Center in London, UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss said: “The freedom to believe, to pray and commit acts of worship, or indeed not to believe is a fundamental human freedom and has been one since the dawn of time. Societies that allow their people to choose what they believe are better, stronger and ultimately more successful. This fundamental right is covered in the very first clause of Magna Carta and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is one of the Four Freedoms Franklin D. Roosevelt said were ‘essential everywhere in the world.’”

Yesterday, the Egyptian minister, at the start of his London visit, met UK Minister of State for North Africa, South and Central Asia, the Commonwealth and the UN Lord Tariq Ahmed. The two discussed the conference, Egypt’s preparations for hosting and chairing COP27 in November, and the importance of continuing coordination between Egypt and the UK.