France probes Lebanese central bank chief’s wealth

The governor of Lebanon's Central Bank, Riad Salameh, addresses the media after a meeting with the Lebanese president. (AFP)
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Updated 06 June 2021

France probes Lebanese central bank chief’s wealth

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

PARIS: France has opened a probe into the personal wealth of Riad Salameh, central bank chief in crisis-hit Lebanon, sources told AFP Sunday.
Paris financial prosecutors have opened a preliminary probe into criminal association and money laundering by Salameh, a source close to the investigation and a judicial source said, following a similar move by Switzerland.
Its findings could shed light onto the origins of the 70-year-old former Merill Lynch banker’s wealth.
In post since 1993 and once hailed by political and business leaders, Salameh has been repeatedly accused by the government of 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.
Lebanon has since been hit by an economic crisis which the World Bank says is one of the worst anywhere since the 19th century.
Close to the powerful Hariri family, Salameh has been under investigation for months in Switzerland on suspicion of serious money laundering and embezzlement from the Bank of Lebanon.
He also owns several properties in France and may have transferred money via the country.
One of the criminal complaints that prompted French prosecutors to get involved came from Swiss foundation Accountability Now, daily Le Monde reported.
Another was filed by anti-financial crime group Sherpa and by the Collective of Victims of Fraudulent and Criminal Practices in Lebanon, set up by savers devastated by the post-2019 crisis.
The French move signals the start of “a universal mega-investigation across Europe,” said William Bourdon and Amelie Lefebvre, lawyers for Sherpa and the savers’ collective.
“Enormous money laundering operations will be examined, which ought to open every nook and cranny of the mafia that has brought Lebanon to its knees,” they hope.
Their criminal complaint, seen by AFP, accuses Salameh and people close to him — his brother Raja, his son Nadi, a nephew and an aide at the central bank — of fraudulently building a vast fortune in Europe.
The groups urge the judiciary to investigate massive capital flight from Lebanon since the crisis began, as well as property purchases out of all proportion to the buyers’ income and the roles played by financial intermediaries, tax havens and strawmen.
Based especially on reports by Lebanese website and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, the plaintiffs believe that Salameh’s worldwide total wealth amounts to more than $2 billion.
He contests that figure, saying his holdings stem from inheritances, his banking career and legitimate investments since taking office in 1993.
The French prosecutors’ investigation is the latest in a string of probes into “ill-gotten gains” of foreign leaders — especially from Africa or the Middle East.

Egyptian state-run infrastructure firm to establish Saudi branch 

Updated 19 sec ago

Egyptian state-run infrastructure firm to establish Saudi branch 

RIYADH: Egypt’s Holding Co. for Roads, Bridges, and Land Transportation Projects is planning to establish a branch of its headquarters in Saudi Arabia after securing contracts for infrastructure projects in the Kingdom. 

The decision to set up the Saudi branch was approved by Egyptian Transportation Minister Kamel Al-Wazir during the company’s general assembly meeting held on Tuesday. 

Al-Wazir, in a statement to the cabinet, emphasized the company’s expansion plans and its interest in exploring business opportunities, particularly in African and Arab countries.  

He also expressed interest in broadening the scope of the holding company beyond its primary focus. 

“There is a need to expand into activities other than roads and bridges, such as the establishment of concrete sleepers’ factories,” added Al-Wazir in the cabinet note.

Saudi Arabia aims to be among top 10 countries in logistics: transport minister 

Updated 10 min 54 sec ago

Saudi Arabia aims to be among top 10 countries in logistics: transport minister 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia aims to be among the top 10 countries in logistics services, said Transport Minister Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser on Wednesday at the fourth Extraordinary Congress of the Universal Postal Union.

Dubai launches family-business support program  

Updated 19 min 3 sec ago

Dubai launches family-business support program  

RIYADH: Dubai has introduced an initiative aimed at empowering the next generation of leaders in family-owned businesses, a vital component of the UAE’s local economy. The announcement was made by Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, first deputy ruler of Dubai, deputy prime minister and minister of finance of the UAE, on Tuesday.  

The Dubai Family Business Management Program is designed to empower the future leaders within family businesses, ensuring their sustained success and effective navigation through generational transitions. 

Emphasizing the program’s goals, Sheikh Maktoum said: “As part of the Dubai Centre for Family Businesses activities and in partnership with Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Leadership Development, we launched the Dubai Family Business Management Program.” 

He added that the move aims to empower the second tier of leaders in family businesses to ensure their continuity, smooth succession of ownership and management, and strengthen their global presence.    

On the X platform, formerly Twitter, he further emphasized the integral role of family businesses in Dubai’s economic success. He expressed that by empowering them, the country strives to achieve the goals outlined in Dubai’s economic agenda D33, positioning Dubai among the world’s top economic cities. 

Egypt, Maersk’s C2X sign $3bn agreement to produce green fuel in Suez Canal  

Updated 44 min 6 sec ago

Egypt, Maersk’s C2X sign $3bn agreement to produce green fuel in Suez Canal  

RIYADH: Egypt is poised to produce green fuel through its recent agreement with Maersk’s C2X worth up to $3 billion signed on Wednesday, according to its prime minister’s office.  

The deal, signed during a meeting between Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and C2X CEO Brian Davis, is aimed at producing green fuel for ship supplies and achieving zero carbon emissions. 

The agreement was formalized during a signing ceremony involving the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone, the Sovereign Fund of Egypt, the New and Renewable Energy Authority, the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Co., and the C2X company. 

Egyptian AI startup Intella raises $3.4m from Saudi investors 

Updated 04 October 2023

Egyptian AI startup Intella raises $3.4m from Saudi investors 

RIYADH: In a significant development for Saudi Arabia’s technology sector, Egyptian deep tech firm Intella has successfully secured $3.4 million in a pre-series A funding round. This funding round was led by Saudi-based HALA Ventures and Wa’ed Ventures, the venture arm of Aramco. 

The capital injection is set to accelerate Intella’s foray into the Saudi market and underpin the development of artificial intelligence models tailored for the Middle East and North Africa audience.    

To demonstrate its commitment to the market, Intella is strategically relocating its headquarters to Saudi Arabia, positioning itself in the midst of the Kingdom's growing tech and AI landscape. 

“Saudi Arabia is quickly becoming a hub for technological advances. This move fits perfectly with our plans for expansion,” said Nour Taher, CEO and co-founder.   

In its pursuit of technological excellence, Intella’s Voice system achieved a 95.73 percent accuracy rate after extensive testing involving 30,000 hours of Arabic audio. This accuracy rate surpasses industry giants like Google and IBM Watson. 

Omar Mansour, Intella’s co-founder and chief technology officer, highlighted the Arabic-focused voice technology, emphasizing its move into advanced audio analytics.   

Hailing Intella’s pioneering approach, Ali Abussaud of HALA Ventures noted: “We’re excited to back Intella’s vision. They’re making significant strides in connecting global AI progress with the needs of the Arab-speaking community, and it’s exactly the kind of initiative the region needs right now.”   

As Intella aims to lead the way in Arabic voice technology, this funding brings it closer to its goal of aligning the MENA region with global tech advancements. 

The funding round also received contributions from Sanabil500, INSEAD’s alumni angel network, and several other prominent investors.