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Swiss regulator investigating 12 banks in corruption scandal involving a Lebanese central banker

Switzerland's financial regulator announced on Monday that it has begun enforcement actions against two banks in connection with corruption charges against former central banker Riad Salameh.

Lebanese officials charged Salameh, his brother Raja and one of his aides on Thursday with money laundering, embezzlement and unlawful enrichment following months of delay in the high-profile case.

During the investigation, the Salameh brothers have denied any involvement. On Thursday, the governor insisted on his innocence to Reuters, claiming the charges were "not an indictment" and promising to follow judicial proceedings.

The allegations stem from Lebanon's 18-month investigation into whether Salameh and his brother Raja stole more than $300 million from the Central Bank between 2002 and 2015.

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) announced on Monday that it has opened an investigation into 12 banks in connection with suspicions of money laundering in the case.

“In the context of Lebanon, FINMA carried out investigations at approximately a dozen banks,” a spokesman said. “In two cases, FINMA opened enforcement proceedings.”

When FINMA detects problems at a bank, it initiates enforcement actions to determine what went wrong and what steps must be made to prevent future violations of money laundering legislation.

In egregious circumstances, FINMA can impose sanctions on banks and send cases to Swiss federal prosecutors if criminal violations are detected.

FINMA refuses to comment on the substance of the enforcement procedures or the institutions involved in this instance.

The Salameh brothers are believed to have transferred $330 million to Swiss accounts via the offshore business Forry Associates, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands, Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung newspaper reported.

It stated that substantial monies were spent to purchase real estate in various European Union countries.

According to the publication, $250 million was deposited into Raja Salameh's personal account at the HSBC branch in Geneva. Additional funds were deposited in UBS, Credit Suisse, Julius Baer, EFG, and Pictet, according to the statement.

Reuters reached out to Julius Baer, UBS, HSBC, and Credit Suisse, all of which declined to comment.

A Pictet representative stated that the bank was not aware of any legal action being taken against it or its employees in connection with this matter.

EFG declined to comment on specific clients, but stated that it has “very strict onboarding and anti-money laundering procedures and complies with all relevant rules and regulations.”

Responsibility in Switzerland Salameh had now filed charges with FINMA against Bank Audi, BankMed, HSBC, and Julius Baer in connection with alleged financial crimes.

Bank Audi Suisse declined to comment on Monday, while BankMed Suisse did not reply immediately.


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