BEIRUT: A German judicial delegation stormed out of the Justice Palace in Beirut on Wednesday, disappointed that its requests had been turned down.
The German delegation was the first to arrive in Beirut, followed by delegations from France and Luxembourg, to investigate alleged fraud by Riad Salameh, the governor of the Mediterranean country’s central bank, the Banque du Liban.
Salameh’s name was mentioned in cases related to financial transfers from Lebanon to the banks of the aforementioned countries.
The delegations will try to identify the sources of the funds and their connection to corruption, money laundering and financial crimes in European countries.
Arab News learned that the German delegation met on Wednesday with the appellate public prosecutor in Beirut, Judge Raja Hamoush, who was assigned to facilitate the delegation’s work and to show them Salameh’s file, which the Lebanese public prosecutor’s Court of Cassation had investigated without charging anyone.
However, the German delegation included officials from the German police, so Hamoush asked them to leave the office, as the meeting was purely judicial, arguing that they had no capacity to be there or view any files.
A judicial source told Arab News: “The German judges were equipped with advanced cameras. When the file was placed in front of them, and it was sealed with red wax, they asked if they could photograph its contents once opened as it includes hundreds of documents and papers. Hamoush refused and said that the judges should submit their request to the public prosecution’s Court of Cassation.”
The source added: “They then asked to take a couple of snaps using their mobile phones, but Hamoush categorically turned down such requests. The delegation thus left Hamoush’s office and headed to that of Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat, and the file remained sealed with red wax.”
The source noted that the delegation asked Oueidat to be allowed to photocopy the file, but he told them that he needed a written request and to know exactly what they wanted from the file.
Following this, the German delegation stormed out of Oueidat’s office and left the Palace of Justice.
Oueidat has previously pointed out that the mission of the European delegations is to interrogate people who were previously interrogated by the Lebanese judiciary as witnesses.
The delegations from France and Luxembourg are scheduled to arrive early next week, and the European delegations will remain in Lebanon until Jan. 20.
According to an official letter sent by the three countries to Lebanese authorities informing them of their presence in Lebanon, the delegations include public prosecutors and financial judges.
The request angered the Lebanese judiciary, however, as it did not include a local judicial delegation and was inconsistent with Lebanese sovereignty.
Later, Oueidat met with representatives from the embassies of the three countries, after which it was decided that a Lebanese judge shall be present in all interviews and interrogations.
Arab News learned that those who were summoned were advised by the Lebanese judiciary to attend as there would be no charges or arrests made against them and that any claim that the European judges wished to make must be made in their country, with extradition requests sent by Interpol to Lebanon.
The Lebanese judiciary cannot extradite any Lebanese to any other country for trial even if there are treaties signed between Lebanon and the foreign country in question. Trials must take place in Lebanon.
Salameh has been fiercely criticized due to his monetary policies. The French financial judiciary has been investigating his wealth since 2021 on charges of money laundering and embezzlement.
Switzerland has also been investigating the embezzlement of funds from the Banque du Liban for two years and suspects that Salameh and his brother, Raja Salameh, are behind it.