France Indicts Nephew of Lebanon’s Former Central Bank Governor

Published: 14 March 2024

Salame Interpol Red NoticeA poster in Beirut calls for Lebanon’s disgraced former central bank governor Riad Salame to be brought to justice. (Photo: Lara Dihmis, OCCRP)

By Lara Dihmis and Tom Stocks

A French court last month indicted the nephew of Riad Salame, Lebanon’s disgraced former central bank governor, as part of a wider money laundering probe into Salame and his associates, a French judicial source on Thursday told OCCRP.

The charges against Emile Salame, 38, were brought on February 12 and include criminal association, organized money laundering, concealment of embezzlement of public funds and aggravated breach of trust, according to the judicial source.

Ex governor Salame has been accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from Lebanon’s central bank in a scheme that spanned more than a decade. Much of this money was allegedly invested in property across Europe, prosecutors say. Several properties and assets worth almost US$100 million were first revealed by previous OCCRP investigations.

Emile’s lawyer, Stephane de Navacelle, told OCCRP that his client has been interviewed in connection with an investigation opened “for actions attributable to others and in which he was not involved.”

“Mr. Salame has endeavored to assist to his full ability the investigators and will continue to do so without restraint. He is confident that the investigation will conclude to no wrongdoing on his part,” he added.

Emile allegedly acted as his father Raja’s power of attorney to manage his French and Lebanese properties, according to a French judicial investigation file prepared by prosecutors and obtained by reporters last August.

Until last month, Emile directed two U.K. companies which acquired several residential properties in London worth around $12.8 million. They include flats in the upscale areas of Chelsea and Marylebone which were purchased without a mortgage. The two companies, Black River Properties and White River Properties, are beneficially owned by Raja.

The indictment against Emile comes nine months after France issued an arrest warrant against Salame himself after he failed to attend his trial. Salame is also under criminal investigation in several other European countries including Switzerland, where prosecutors say bank accounts connected to Salame were used to funnel the embezzled funds.

Last August, Salame was sanctioned by the U.S., U.K. and Canada for “abus[ing] his position of power, likely in violation of Lebanese law, to enrich himself and his associates by funneling hundreds of millions of dollars through layered shell companies to invest in European real estate.” Raja, as well as Salame’s son, Nady, his former partner, Anna Kosakova, and his assistant at the central bank, Marianne Hoayek, were also targeted with sanctions.

Salame has previously denied all accusations of wrongdoing.