Lebanon stands in ruins, devastated by a historic economic collapse that has left its people suffering amidst food shortages, power outages, and a currency that has lost over 90% of its value. At the center of this catastrophe is one man: Riad Salameh, the former central bank governor who stands accused of brazen corruption, fraud and gross mismanagement on a massive scale.
- Riad Salameh was governor of Lebanon’s central bank for 30 years before his term ended amid corruption charges
- Salameh is accused of transferring billions in central bank funds to his wife and brother
- Lebanon has lost over $70 billion, more than 3 times its GDP, under Salameh’s leadership
- The central bank allegedly did risky “financial engineering” under Salameh, depleting reserves
- Salameh faces criminal charges in Lebanon and several European countries
How It Happened
Riad Salameh operated the central bank without any meaningful oversight for 30 years, enabled by compliant politicians who benefited from his alleged corruption schemes. Salameh offered high interest rates to attract foreign cash flows into Lebanese banks. He then used these deposits to prop up failing banks through risky “financial engineering” programs that temporarily boosted Lebanon’s economy.
However, Salameh allegedly siphoned off billions of dollars in central bank funds during this time. He is accused of transferring funds to his wife and brother, who then laundered the money into luxury real estate purchases across Europe. In the end, Salameh’s “Ponzi scheme” imploded, leaving Lebanon’s reserves depleted. The currency has crashed and banks remain shuttered, plunging Lebanon into economic ruin.
What This Means
The sheer scale of alleged corruption under Salameh is staggering, directly contributing to Lebanon’s economic collapse. Over $70 billion was lost – more than three times Lebanon’s GDP. As long as central bank governors can steal billions without consequence, as Salameh allegedly did, true reform remains impossible in Lebanon. The political class must be held accountable for enabling this pillaging of the nation’s wealth.
Bringing justice to Salameh would be symbolic, but Lebanon urgently requires systemic reforms across all sectors to rebuild trust. Faith cannot be restored until the culture of impunity is ended. The demise of Lebanon also serves as a sobering lesson to all nations. Unchecked corruption at the highest levels inevitably leads to catastrophe. Safeguards must be enacted to prevent central bankers from defrauding the public for personal gain.
Lebanon requires root-and-branch reforms to save its economy and rebuild trust. But as long as figures like Salameh can allegedly loot the state with no consequences, it will continue on its path to destitution. The demise of Lebanon is a cautionary tale of what happens when corruption is allowed to fester unchecked at the highest levels. Riad Salameh’s disastrous tenure should be a lesson for central bankers worldwide.