Lebanese actress arrested on ‘money laundering and illicit enrichment’ charges
On Friday, the Lebanese judiciary suspended actress Stephanie Saliba pending investigation after questioning her in a money laundering and illicit enrichment case involving Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, a source in the judiciary told Agence France-Presse.
The source, who declined to be named, said that “Saliba is currently in custody pending investigation based on a ruling by the financial prosecutor, Judge Ali Ibrahim, who questioned her on suspicion of money laundering and illicit enrichment.”
He explained that she was sent to the Financial Crimes Authority to expand the investigation, on the condition that he later decides to keep her or keep her under arrest.
Saliba’s interrogation is part of an investigation that Mount Lebanon’s public prosecutor Judge Ghada Aoun has been conducting since April after accusing Salameh and his brother of the crime of “illicit enrichment and money laundering.”
And local media say that Saliba receives exorbitant gifts from the governor of the Central Bank.
Another judicial source familiar with Salameh’s case said: “The investigation did not show that he transferred money to Salibe, which means that the money laundering hypothesis is incorrect.” And he considered that “the gifts she received, whether it be a house or jewelry, do not mean that these are money laundering operations.”
Security forces implemented the contents of a search and investigation memorandum against Saliba, who arrived at Beirut airport from Jeddah on Wednesday evening, where she was attending the Red Sea Film Festival, after she had previously failed to appear before an investigation.
In response to a question from France Press, her office declined to comment, explaining: “We have no comment at this time.”
Saliba, 35, began her acting career in 2016 and quickly rose to prominence in the Arab world after starring in several series, most notably Matl al-Qamar and A Minute of Silence, the latest of which is Challenge. ”
And while Lebanon was showing signs of a financial and economic crisis in the fall of 2019, Saliba posted pictures on her Instagram account, one of which showed her wearing a crown on her head studded with metallic Lebanese crystals. The picture was attached to the comment “Our crown is our head.”
In October, he also released a video clip titled “Our lyre unites us”, which appeared as a publicity stunt in support of the lira, whose value had begun to fall.
Saliba’s arrest comes less than two weeks after Paris charged a Ukrainian woman close to Salama with “creating a criminal organization”, “organized money laundering” and “large-scale tax laundering,” according to a French judicial source. The charges were brought against her as part of an investigation into the state of Salama’s property in France, which, according to the same source, is suspected of having been obtained through fraud.
Salama is facing numerous complaints against him in many countries. However, despite being subpoenaed and banned from entering Lebanon, he still holds the position he has held since 1993, making him one of the world’s longest-serving central bank governors.
Salame always denies the accusations against him.