The Depositors Union, Beirut Madinati, Li Haqqi, Taqaddom, and Pyramid have united to lodge a complaint with the financial supervisory authority in Switzerland (FINMA) requesting an in-depth investigation into the Swiss banks which could have played a central role in assisting the governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon (BDL), Mr. Salamé, and his entourage to allegedly shelter illicit funds issued in Switzerland and abroad.
Despite all the red flags being raised in the case of Mr Salamé, none of the banks appear to have reported any suspicious transaction, or have done so belatedly, to the supervisory authorities over the last years.
These red flags, as set-out by the FATF, include: attempts to shield the identity of the concerned person, use of corporate vehicles to obscure the beneficial ownership, use of intermediaries that go against normal business practices, transfer of funds between accounts or financial institutions without any business rationale and the piling up of an important number of offshore companies and opaque structures.
HSBC has already been at the heart of a money laundering scheme which resulted in the bank receiving a fine of over 2.5 billion USD. In the case of Mr. Salamé, it appears from the file of the Swiss Federal Public Prosecutor that HSBC (Switzerland) SA has allowed hundreds of millions of dollars to touch and go through its institution, before being dispatched to offshore structures in Panama and the BVI, to the benefit of Mr. Salamé and his entourage.
It appears from the Swiss investigations that part of these funds were channeled through one of the companies of Mr Salamé which is a founding shareholder of a UK financially regulated company, alongside Bank Audi and Julius Baer. Lebanese Law clearly prohibits the governor of the central bank of making an investment in a financial company.
The Depositors Union, Beirut Madinati, Li Haqqi, Taqaddom, and Pyramid call upon FINMA to investigate the banks which could have sheltered illicit funds, in particular HSBC (Switzerland) SA, Bank Audi (Suisse) SA, and Julius Baer, and take appropriate sanctions against the banks and the individuals found to be involved in this scheme.