Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank (the Banque du Liban, or BdL), was once hailed as a “financial wizard” for his stewardship of the Lebanese banking system. But a flurry of recent investigations, led mainly by French and Swiss prosecutors, have implicated Salameh in a variety of corruption schemes. These investigations found, among other things, that Salameh illicitly moved over $300 million of public funds from the BdL into his brother’s company, Forry Associates, between 2002 and 2015 and that Salameh laundered millions in Europe through luxury real-estate purchases. And in March 2022, after Swiss prosecutors asked Lebanese authorities to carry out a separate investigation into embezzlement and money laundering by Salameh and his associates, a Lebanese district court judge charged Salameh and his brother with illegal enrichment and money laundering.
Though Salameh denies all allegations, many Lebanese citizens consider the accusations against him unsurprising. Indeed, if anything is surprising about the case against Salameh, it’s that he is being prosecuted in Lebanese courts. Government elites in Lebanon—including the BdL’s leaders—have long benefited from a culture of impunity. It is encouraging to see Lebanese prosecutors and courts taking steps to hold corrupt actors at the BdL accountable. But cleaning up the BdL, and ensuring that in the future cases like Salameh’s are detected early or prevented altogether, will also require more structural reforms to address the institutional and regulatory problems at the BdL that have enabled such corrupt practices. Three reforms to the BdL are especially important: