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Lebanon probe gets account data on central bank governor’s brother

A Lebanese probe into alleged embezzlement and money-laundering by the central bank governor and his brother received new account information on the brother on Thursday, two judicial sources said, in a development that could advance the investigation.

Central Bank chief Riad Salameh is facing judicial probes in Lebanon and at least five European nations into the alleged embezzlement of at least $330 million in public funds by him and his younger brother, Raja.

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Both have denied the accusations.

On Thursday, the central bank’s special investigation commission handed over account information from nine Lebanese banks on Raja Salameh to Lebanon’s top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat, the two judicial sources said.

The handover of complete information would mark significant progress in the investigations after months of delay.

Riad Salameh had earlier told Reuters that the bank’s commission, which he heads, had agreed to hand over the information and that he had stepped back from presiding over the body as far as it pertains to his case, “so there is no conflict of interest.”

Oueidat had previously sent letters to Lebanese banks asking them to provide the Lebanese judiciary with account information on Raja Salameh.

The banks had refused, citing banking secrecy laws, and instead provided information to the central bank’s commission.

The move came as a French judge investigating the Salameh brothers for money laundering and embezzlement visited Beirut on Thursday.

French investigative judge Aude Buresi met Oueidat and other judges, including prosecutor Jean Tannous, at a Beirut courthouse, in the first such visit by a French judge in Salameh’s case.

Her visit was aimed in part at increasing pressure on Lebanese authorities to secure account information relating to the Salameh brothers and other persons of interest in the probe, two people familiar with the matter said.

Buresi and the Lebanese judges also exchanged details of their investigations.

The French Embassy declined to comment, saying it was not involved in the coordination between the two judiciaries.

Read more: Lebanon judge orders seizure of properties belonging to cenbank’s detained brother

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Hundreds of stolen cars recovered in global Interpol operation funded by the UAE

A United Arab Emirates-funded global police operation targeting stolen vehicle trafficking has led to the recovery of hundreds of cars, trucks and motorbikes and almost half a million stolen cigarettes in just two weeks, Interpol announced on Wednesday.

Operation Carback saw frontline police at seaports and land border crossings in 77 countries use Interpol’s secure global police communications network – I-24/7 – to check vehicles and their owners against Interpol’s databases and instantaneously detect potential criminals or criminal activity.

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Interpol launched its ‘Reducing Vehicle Crime and Theft’ Program in 2016 with funding from the United Arab Emirates via Interpol’s ‘Foundation for a Safer World’, which financed Operation Carback 2022.

Since May 2016, the foundation has been supporting seven key Interpol initiatives by donating $52 million over a period of five years, as part of a contribution agreement between the Foundation and the UAE government.

In just over two weeks, Operation Carback led to the identification of 1,121 stolen cars and 64 motorcycles, the arrest or detention of 222 suspected stolen vehicle traffickers, the detention of eight suspected people smugglers, the detection of 26 fraudulent vehicle documents and the seizure of 480,000 stolen cigarettes.

Officers raided chop shops – places where stolen vehicles are dismantled into parts that are smuggled or sold online – with confiscations triggering further investigations into car crime gangs globally.

Interpol supported the operation by crosschecking information collected in the field against its international databases, with Frontex also supporting the European leg of frontline operations.

Experts from Interpol’s Stolen Motor Vehicles Unit were deployed to key locations to assist national law enforcement with database checks in the field as well as in exchanging, analyzing and acting on operational data.

With the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) typically removed from stolen cars, on-the-ground assistance from Interpol enabled national law enforcement to connect with car manufacturers to identify vehicle origin.

Because stolen vehicles are frequently trafficked to finance and carry out crime ranging from drug trafficking, arms dealing and people smuggling to corruption and international terrorism, the Interpol General Secretariat headquarters is analyzing intelligence gathered during Operation Carback to identify links with other crime areas.

“With vehicles usually smuggled beyond borders and ending up thousands of miles away from where they were stolen, an international operation like Carback is crucial to enabling police to tackle the networks behind global car trafficking,” said Ilana de Wild, Interpol’s director of organized and emerging Crime.

“The main key to the success of Operation Carback is the wealth of information contained in Interpol’s Stolen Motor Vehicle database, and the fact that throughout the operation police in the field were able to access this crucial data.”

Last year, Interpol identified some 248,000 stolen vehicles thanks to the SMV database. More than 130 countries shared their national data with Interpol, and carried out more than 280 million searches.

The UAE has close links with Interpol and in November it was announced that the country’s Major General Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi, of the UAE’s interior ministry, had been elected as the new President of Interpol.

The senior police official will serve the four-year term in Lyon, France.

The new appointment makes him the first candidate from the Middle Eastern region to be elected into the position since the global crime fighting agency was founded in the 1920s.

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UAE joins Interpol operation to crack down on human trafficking gangs

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‘If Putin was a woman, there would be no Ukraine war’: UK’s Johnson

Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have started the war in Ukraine if he was a woman, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“If Putin was a woman, which he obviously isn't, but if he were, I really don't think he would've embarked on a crazy, macho war of invasion and violence in the way that he has,” Johnson told German broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday evening.

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Putin's invasion of Ukraine is “a perfect example of toxic masculinity”, he said, calling for better education for girls around the world and for “more women in positions of power”.

The British Prime Minister acknowledged that “of course people want the war to end”, but for the moment “there's no deal available. Putin isn't making an offer of peace”.

Western allies must support Ukraine to enable it to be in the best possible strategic position in the event that peace negotiations with Moscow do become possible, he added.

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Spain begins natural gas exports to Morocco following diplomatic row

Natural gas has started flowing from Spain toward Morocco through a pipeline that stopped flowing in November amid a diplomatic row between Morocco and Algeria, data from Spanish gas grid operator Enagas showed on Wednesday.
Algeria decided last year not to extend a deal to export gas through a pipeline running through neighboring Morocco to Spain, halting nearly all of Morocco’s gas supply, as relations between Rabat and Algiers worsened.
In April, Algeria warned Madrid not to re-export Algerian gas supplies to its Southern neighbor after Energy Minister Teresa Ribera confirmed plans to reverse the flow of the Maghreb Europe pipeline and begin exportation of natural gas to Morocco.
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“A certification process guarantees that this gas is not of Algerian origin,” a spokesperson for Enagas said on Wednesday.
In March, Spain angered its main gas supplier Algeria by supporting a Moroccan plan to offer autonomy to Western Sahara, prompting Algiers to suspend its 20-year-old friendship treaty with Madrid and causing a diplomatic crisis.
The shift was well received in Rabat as Morocco decided to return its ambassador to Spain after almost a year of absence following a long diplomatic dispute.
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UN calls for independent investigation into Spain-Morocco deaths

Spain, Morocco to open land borders next week after two years

Libya suspends oil shipments from key port amid political crisis

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