Trump Group Costs: A Probe of Hush Cash Moved to Fringe Advantages

The indictment against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer arose out of an investigation into what appeared to be an unrelated matter: the now infamous $ 130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

The Manhattan Attorney’s investigation into a hush money payment to the alleged lover of former President Donald Trump has since turned into a comprehensive investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices, including whether it was involved in banking, insurance and tax fraud.

This week, an investigation that stalled several times over three years finally reached a courtroom indicting the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg on tax charges. The prosecutor, who works with the New York attorney general, accused the company and its CFO of running a 15-year tax avoidance program by offering Manhattan apartments, luxury cars, and private schooling as off-the-books compensation.

The Trump Organization and Mr. Weisselberg pleaded not guilty, and their lawyers said they would take action against the charges.

The charges go well beyond the investigation’s original focus – the handling of the payment to Ms. Daniels by the Trump Organization, which was supposed to silence her over her allegations of sexual encounter with Mr. Trump. Former prosecutors said Thursday’s charges could become a stepping stone to bringing broader charges against Mr Trump himself if Mr Weisselberg asked for leniency in return for testifying against his longtime boss.

Second UAW president sentenced to jail in union corruption probe

Gary Jones, newly elected President of the United Auto Workers (UAW), speaks at the 37th UAW Constitutional Convention on June 14, 2018 at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan.

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

DETROIT – Former United Auto Workers president was sentenced Thursday to 28 months in prison for participating in a scheme with fellow leaders to collect up to $ 1.5 million in union money for lavish travel, golf, alcohol and others Stealing luxury.

Gary Jones is the second UAW president convicted of a multi-year corruption investigation against the well-known American union. He is one of 15 defendants, including three Fiat Chrysler executives and his predecessor Dennis Williams, who died last month 21 months in prison.

His conviction is one of the latest in the investigation, which has damaged the union’s reputation, aroused suspicion among its members, and resulted in federal oversight of the UAW.

During the hearing, Jones spoke quickly and somewhat emotionally as he apologized to the court, his family, and UAW members.

“I failed [my family]and I failed the UAW, “he said before pleading with the judge for mercy on the sentencing.

Jones is also required to repay or withhold more than $ 750,000, including $ 550,000 to the UAW and $ 42,000 to the IRS.

US Attorney David A. Gardey described Jones as a “good man” who worked in a “culture of corruption”. He said Jones continues to cooperate with the prosecutor “on other matters” affecting the union.

Prosecutors had recommended Jones a 28-month prison sentence, well below an earlier range of 46 to 57 months as part of a plea with federal prosecutor’s office. The recommendation below reads, according to court records, “commendable substantial cooperation with the government”.

Jones Faust hit his attorney and prosecutors after the verdict. Despite wearing masks, Jones hugged and kissed his wife in the middle of the courtroom in downtown Detroit.

Jones, who headed the union from June 2018 to November 2019, pleaded guilty in June extortion, embezzlement and tax evasion. As part of the plea agreement, his maximum sentence was nearly five years in prison.

FBI agents clear materials from the home of United Auto Workers President Gary Jones into a truck on Wednesday, August 28, 2019.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

The sentences for those indicted in the federal investigation ranged from 60 days to 5½ years. Ex-Fiat Chrysler executive Alphons Iacobelli, who ran the company’s labor relations, received the longest prison sentence; however, it has recently been reduced to four years.

In December the UAW and the federal prosecutor’s office agreed to end the corruption investigation Joined the union on a civil settlement that included an independent observer who oversaw the organization for six years.

Additional requirements under the agreement include holding a member-wide vote by the union, possibly to reform their voting process, and making certain repayments, including a payment of $ 1.5 million to the IRS. The UAW has already repaid approximately $ 15 million to training centers for improper chargebacks uncovered by officials.

A spokeswoman for the US Attorney’s Office in Detroit confirmed that a federal criminal investigation was pending against individuals.

The homes of Jones, Williams and other union officials were searched in August 2019 as part of the investigation, which was published in July 2017.

In a statement Thursday the UAW said Jones’ conviction “closes a very dark chapter in the history of the UAW”.

“Jones has clearly put his personal and self-interest above that of his union members and has been removed from his membership in the UAW,” the union said. “These serious crimes violated the oath of the UAW officers and they violated the trust of the UAW officers charged with handling our members’ sacred dues and community action funds.”

U.S. officers say China hasn’t been ‘fully clear’ in Covid probe

During the visit of the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the causes of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on February 3, 2021, security guards will be on guard in front of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Thomas Peter | Reuters

White House officials told reporters Tuesday that China has not been “fully transparent” in its global investigation into China’s origins Covid-19and that a full study is needed to determine if the virus that has killed nearly 3.5 million people came from nature or a laboratory.

“We have to get to the bottom of whatever the answer,” Andy Slavitt, senior advisor to Covid-19 at the White House, told reporters at a briefing in Covid on Tuesday. “We need a completely transparent process from China, we need that [World Health Organization] to help on this matter, and we don’t feel like we have it now. “

The theory that Covid-19 escaped the Wuhan Institute of Virology was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory by most medical experts and health officials, but credible scientists continue to question the true origin of the disease.

Members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the causes of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic leave the Jade Hotel on a bus after completing their quarantine in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei Province, on Jan. 28, 2021.

HECTOR RETAMAL | AFP | Getty Images

A previously unpublished US intelligence report found that researchers at the institute in Wuhan, where the outbreak began in late 2019, were seeking hospital care for an illness “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses.” . The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, quoted from the report.

While it is more likely that the coronavirus jumped from animal to human, “we don’t know 100% the answer to that,” said White House chief medical officer Dr. Anthony Fauci, reporters at the same briefing on Tuesday. “We absolutely need to conduct an investigation.”

Last week director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Rochelle Walensky confirmed that there is “a possibility” that Covid-19 leaked from a laboratory.

Peter Ben Embarek and Marion Koopmans (R) come to a press conference on February 9, 2021 to conclude a visit by an international team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) to the city of Wuhan in the Chinese province of Hefei.

HECTOR RETAMAL | AFP | Getty Images

WHO has said the virus likely came from an animal host, but the agency hasn’t ruled out that it leaked from a laboratory.

“Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been rejected,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “I want to make it clear that all hypotheses remain open and require further investigation.”

St. Sabina Catholic Parish withholding cash over Rev. Pfleger probe

CHICAGO – Church officials in the St. Sabina Catholic Ward have placed additional pressure on the Archdiocese of Chicago to close the investigation into Rev. Michael Pfleger.

Church leaders announced that starting Monday they would withhold the Church and school assessments that the archdiocese would pay each month.

The announcement made during Sunday mass in the Catholic parish of St. Sabina received an ovation from the parish.

The prominent Chicago believer and outspoken social justice activist was accused of sexually abusing two minors, ages 12 and 13, more than 40 years ago.

Rev. nurse has emphatically denied the allegations.

The Department of Child and Family Services concluded that the allegation was “unfounded”.

Now the Archdiocese of Chicago has launched its own investigation into Rev. Michael Pfleger, and the community wants a solution soon.

The Church says the withheld funds will be paid out in full when the investigation is completed.

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Cuomo agrees to impartial probe of sexual harassment allegations

Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor, speaks to reporters during a press conference at a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination center in the William Reid Apartments in Brooklyn, New York City, the United States, on Jan. 23, 2021.

Mary Altaffer | Reuters

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo On Sunday, he abandoned his plan to appoint a former federal judge who will be in close contact with one of the governor’s top advisors to oversee an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against him.

The Cuomo administration said it would ask New York attorney general Letitia James and Janet DiFiore, the chief justice of the state’s highest court, to decide who will oversee an independent investigation. The decision would help “avoid even perceiving a lack of independence or inferring politics,” Cuomo’s special adviser Beth Garvey said in a statement.

“We will leave all decisions regarding the investigation at the discretion of the independent attorney chosen by the Attorney General and the Chief Justice,” Garvey said.

The governor’s reversal came after a number of Democrats criticized the governor’s initial decision to conduct a review and called for an independent investigation into the allegations after a second aide came forward to allege sexual harassment against Cuomo. Some Democratic lawmakers also joined some Republicans in urging Cuomo to resign immediately.

Cuomo’s office initially said it would select former federal judge Barbara Jones to lead the review. Jones had worked with Cuomo’s top advisor, Steven Cohen.

The requirements for an independent investigation follow a New York Times Report released Saturday night describing the allegations made by Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former aide to the governor, who said Cuomo asked her about her sex life and whether she was monogamous in relationships and was ever “with an elder.” been “was man.”

It was the second allegation against the governor in a week. Former Adjutant Lindsey Boylan, Former State Economic Development Officer, detailed allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo last week, including a kiss without her consent in his Manhattan office. Cuomo has denied Boylan’s allegations.

Cuomo responded to Bennett’s allegations in a statement on Saturdayand said he intended to serve as a mentor and “never made any progress toward Mrs. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in a manner that was inappropriate.”

Pressure from democrats

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Cuomo should undergo an independent review of both allegations in an interview on CNN on Sunday. President Joe Biden supports this and “we believe we should move forward as soon as possible”.

A spokesman for Senator Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said the Senator believes the allegations “should be investigated thoroughly and independently.” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y., also called for an “independent, transparent and prompt investigation into these grave and deeply worrying allegations.”

MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., along with other Democrats, called for an independent investigation into the governor, led not by someone chosen by Cuomo, but by the Attorney General.

“Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed reports of sexual harassment by Governor Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a tweet on Sunday morning. “There needs to be an independent investigation – not one led by someone chosen by the governor, but by the attorney general.”

The new allegations also come after a January report that the Cuomo government failed to report thousands of Covid-19 deaths in state nursing homes.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, a Democrat, said Sunday that Cuomos state lawmakers must immediately revoke emergency powers overriding local scrutiny and called for two separate independent investigations into the sexual misconduct allegations and the undercounting Deaths in nursing homes.

“New Yorkers have seen detailed, documented reports of sexual harassment, multiple cases of intimidation and admitted withholding of information about the deaths of over 15,000 people,” De Blasio said in a statement. “Questions of this magnitude cannot hang over their heads as New Yorkers fight a pandemic and economic crisis.”

New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi praised the two women for their allegations and called on the governor to step down in a statement posted on Twitter Saturday night.

“The harassment of these former employees is part of a clear pattern of abuse and manipulation by the governor, and that pattern makes him unworthy of the highest office in New York,” wrote Biaggi.

Republicans again urged Cuomo to resign after the second allegation, including MP Elise Stefanik, RN.Y., who described the governor as a “criminal sexual predator” in a statement on Saturday and said he should resign immediately.

Faux Japanese-style artworks present in circulation after probe

A number of counterfeit Japanese-style art prints by master painters circulated after an art dealer in western Japan was found to have sold 10 counterfeits, people familiar with the matter said Monday.

The Japanese Association of Contemporary Print Merchants said the 1950s-based and Osaka-based trader sold 10 counterfeit works based on the artists of Nihonga or Japanese traditional arts – Ikuo Hirayama, Kaii Higashiyama and Tamako Kataoka.

The photo shows a painting by the late master painter of Nihonga or traditional Japanese art Ikuo Hirayama in Nara Prefecture on December 2, 2009. (Kyodo)

The dealer has admitted to having sold the counterfeit works to the association and was fired from the group in December. In the same month, according to investigative sources, police confiscated fake paintings related to the allegations.

The association began the investigation after a staff member discovered that an unusually high number of Hirayama works were in circulation last spring.

The forgeries were complex enough to deceive many except specialists. Since the signatures and coloring were a bit unnatural, the works were revealed to be forgeries when compared to original works kept in art museums.

Also on Monday, the Japanese department store operator Sogo & Seibu Co. announced that a total of 71 art prints sold between 2009 and 2020 with a turnover of around 55 million yen (520,000 US dollars) are suspected to be counterfeits.

Since receiving the report on Dec. 1, the retailer has identified 59 of 71 pieces and plans to fully refund those who purchased prints that have been rated by a third party and found to be counterfeit.

The police are investigating the case as a copyright infringement.

Tilting the scales – A Swiss money-laundering probe raises disturbing questions | Finance & economics

Jan 23rd 2021

IN 2014 SWITZERLAND’S then attorney-general and two colleagues posed for a photo with several other people on a boat on Lake Baikal in Siberia. The picture shows the men relaxing together on the deck. But their host was no ordinary sailor. He was one of Russia’s top prosecutors, later implicated in efforts to stymie a major international money-laundering case that his very guests were investigating.

The story behind the photograph involves an intriguing cast. It includes the Russian lawyer who met President Donald Trump’s campaign team in 2016, an encounter that featured in the Mueller report into Russian interference in that year’s election. Another starring character has been linked to corruption investigations at FIFA, world football’s governing body. The money-laundering case, and allegations of cosy relations between Swiss law enforcers and Russian counterparts, threaten to make a mockery of the Alpine country’s efforts to shed its global reputation as the home for shady people’s cash.

At the heart of it all is the loot from the so-called Magnitsky case. In 2009 Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer, died in a Russian prison after trying to investigate a fraud in which Russian officials and police officers, with the connivance of the courts, purloined a $230m tax refund for an investment firm, Hermitage Capital Management. Bill Browder, the firm’s founder and Magnitsky’s employer, has worked since to expose the scam. His lobbying has led several countries, including America and Britain, to pass “Magnitsky laws” that sanction foreign officials who commit human-rights abuses or steal money. An EU-wide version was adopted on December 7th.

Mr Browder’s team has tracked the money from the fraud to 26 countries, including Switzerland. Around $11m in Credit Suisse has been tied to Vladlen Stepanov, the husband of the official who approved the bogus tax refund. The couple have been hit with American sanctions. An undisclosed sum in UBS, another bank, was linked to Dmitry Klyuev, a Russian businessman also subject to sanctions. And over $7m in UBS was held by Denis Katsyv, another business figure, and firms linked to him. In 2017 one of the firms, Prevezon, agreed to pay $5.9m, without admitting guilt, to settle a US government asset-forfeiture suit over the case.

The Russians have all said the money in their accounts is unrelated to the alleged fraud and deny wrongdoing. But Mr Browder disagreed. In 2011 Hermitage filed a criminal complaint over the $230m theft with Swiss prosecutors. They launched a probe and froze the accounts. But despite progress in related probes elsewhere and plenty of evidence joining the dots, there have been no indictments or seizures. In November the Swiss prosecutor’s office said it planned to close the investigation and release most of the money in the accounts to their Russian owners. It also signalled that it may remove Hermitage as a plaintiff following a legal challenge, which The Economist understands to be from Prevezon. That would leave Hermitage unable to appeal the decision to drop the probe.

The Swiss have “capitulated” in the face of Russian efforts to sabotage the case, complains Mr Browder. He is not alone. Several Swiss politicians have raised the issue in parliament. A group of 20 lawmakers from several European countries signed a declaration bemoaning the reported closeness of Swiss investigators to Russia in the Magnitsky case. In December an American senator, Roger Wicker, wrote to Mike Pompeo to urge the secretary of state “to ensure that mutual legal assistance work with Switzerland does not inadvertently become a vector for Russian influence”.

The Swiss officials in the case all deny any bias. The attorney-general’s office says that the link between sums suspected of being laundered in Switzerland and an offence committed abroad “must be established with a sufficient degree of certainty”, and that it was “justified” in closing the case after conducting a thorough investigation. However, documents seen by The Economist, including court records, raise disturbing questions about the integrity of the Swiss probe.

By 2013 there were three Swiss officials involved in the investigation. Patrick Lamon had just taken over as lead prosecutor. At around the same time, a police officer with expertise in Russia, “Viktor K”, was seconded to the prosecutor’s office to assist with the case. (The Economist cannot publish his real name without falling foul of Swiss law, which shields individuals who are not publicly known figures, including those convicted of crimes, from having their identities revealed.) Michael Lauber, Switzerland’s attorney-general, oversaw their work. What followed was not exactly an arm’s length investigation.

Boars, bears and choppers

In 2014 Viktor K went on a boar-hunting trip with a Russian prosecutor, Saak Karapetyan. According to court documents, they stayed at a lodge in the Yaroslavl region, 320km from Moscow, and the tab was picked up by an oligarch involved in energy and property. That summer all three Swiss men schmoozed with Mr Karapetyan on Lake Baikal. The Russians paid for the boat trip. In September 2015 Mr Lamon and K travelled from Zurich to Moscow on a plane owned by the Russian state, at the invitation of the prosecutor-general. Some of the expenses were paid by the Russians. K stayed on for another hunting trip with Mr Karapetyan. (K did not respond to questions from The Economist.)

Who was this hospitable Russian prosecutor? Evidence has emerged that Mr Karapetyan may have played a key role in covering up the $230m fraud. In 2014 he sent a letter to America’s Department of Justice refusing help in the Prevezon case and insisting that the company and its owner were innocent. Mr Karapetyan, who died in a helicopter crash in 2018, had accused Mr Browder of being behind the heist.

Intriguingly, a DoJ investigation concluded that the letter had been drafted with help from a lawyer advising Prevezon, Natalia Veselnitskaya. The DoJ has charged her with obstruction of justice in connection with its case against Prevezon. She is also known for meeting senior figures from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, at Trump Tower in June 2016. Team Trump had been led to believe it might get hold of dirt on Hillary Clinton. Instead, according to several participants, Ms Veselnitskaya turned the conversation to the Magnitsky Act, which she had been lobbying to have repealed.

In that same year Hermitage filed a request to indict Mr Stepanov, who, it argued, could not adequately explain the lawful origin of the funds in his Swiss account. Four months later Mr Lamon turned down the request, citing insufficient grounds for indictment. (Hermitage later tried to have him recused for bias, but a court rejected the request.) In August 2016 K saw Mr Karapetyan again. This time they went bear-hunting in far-eastern Russia, where they were taken by helicopter to a lodge owned by another oligarch. The two men discussed the Magnitsky case for several hours, according to K’s statement.

On his return to Switzerland the policeman requested a meeting with Andreas Gross, a Swiss politician who had written a report on the Magnitsky case for the Council of Europe, accusing Russia of “a massive cover-up”. Later, K told a court: “My task was to show that the report does not constitute the absolute truth, that nothing has been verified, and that it is just Browder’s version…I told Lamon that we must discontinue the investigation immediately.” Mr Gross says of his meeting with K: “I agreed to go because I thought he wanted my help. But it turned into an interrogation that lasted all day. It felt like he was a Russian investigator, not a Swiss one.” Mr Browder claims that K wanted to discredit the report in order to close the Swiss case.

Soon afterwards, Mr Karapetyan asked K to come to Moscow to discuss a “confidential” matter. K asked his supervisor in the police if he could make the trip. The request was denied—but he went anyway. According to court documents, he used his diplomatic passport without permission. He paid for his flights, but the cost of his stay in Moscow was covered by the Russians. While there, “he was invited to discuss some problems in the jointly processed cases,” according to a Swiss court ruling from 2018. It describes his Russian host organising a meeting with the female lawyer of a defendant in the Magnitsky case, “without him [K] knowing anything beforehand”. The lawyer is believed to have been Ms Veselnitskaya, the anti-Magnitsky lobbyist in the Trump Tower meeting.

The hunter is hunted

Back in Switzerland K’s bosses were reportedly livid about his trip. On his return, the police filed a criminal complaint against him for four offences, including the abuse of office and bribery. But in January 2019 Mr Lauber’s office dropped the charges for a lighter one, “acceptance of advantage”. This carried a maximum three-year sentence.

Viktor K lost his job, in part because of the unauthorised trip, and was convicted over his bear-hunting excursion. Yet there was no jail time. He did not even have to pay a fine: a SFr9,000 ($8,950) penalty was quashed on appeal—a ruling which, according to the court, was aimed at “facilitating his…reinsertion” back into his profession. That was not the only thing about the courts’ treatment of the policeman that struck some as unduly lenient. His conviction was expunged from the criminal record. Three-quarters of his lawyer’s fees were reimbursed by the state. He was acquitted over the two other trips on the grounds that any bribery would have taken place in Russia, not Switzerland—even though Swiss law covers offences that affect an official’s work in his own country, which this appeared to do. The attorney-general’s office did not appeal this ruling.

At the same time, according to the transcript of a hearing in June 2019, Russian officials singled out K for praise. The prosecutor-general said his “activity…has significantly contributed to the collaboration of the Russian and Swiss authorities”.

Mr Lauber stirred further controversy last year. The Financial Times, citing letters sent by his office to Swiss lawyers, reported that he planned to share sensitive testimony relating to the Magnitsky case with Russian counterparts. His office declined to confirm this. Mr Browder says the letters are authentic. The decision to transfer the information angered many politicians in Europe and America, since it contravenes guidance from Interpol and the Council of Europe, of which Switzerland is a member.

As things stand, most of the frozen money in UBS and Credit Suisse will go back to the account-holders. The remainder—as little as $1.1m—covers the amount deemed to be provably illicit. But how the Swiss attorney-general’s office calculated this has raised yet more eyebrows. It chose to use a “proportional” method, under which the share of money counted as tainted is heavily diluted if—as happened in this case—it is commingled with other funds while being moved around.

This approach runs counter to a UN convention on organised crime, which allows far more money to be seized, even if it is mixed with other funds. It also goes against common practice, including that in Switzerland, says Mark Pieth, an expert who helped write the country’s anti-money-laundering laws. “The theory they applied is just wrong,” he says. “It’s an argument you’d expect a desperate defence lawyer to use, rather than a prosecutor obliged to follow the money. To my eyes it looks like they were working against their own interests. It’s weird.” The attorney-general’s office says the stingy methodology reflects the “link [that] can be established between the assets seized in Switzerland and the predicate offence committed in Russia”.

Mr Browder has threatened to sue the two Swiss banks for breaching American sanctions if they unfreeze the accounts. (Both banks say they do not comment on existing or potential client relationships but are committed to complying with all applicable laws and regulations.) He is expected to mount a legal challenge in the next few weeks.

Mr Lauber is no longer overseeing the case. He stepped down as attorney-general in August, after a court found he had covered up a meeting with Gianni Infantino, head of FIFA, and lied to supervisors while his office probed corruption at the organisation. The Swiss parliament has waived his immunity in the case, paving the way for criminal proceedings against him. Mr Lauber has denied wrongdoing. He declined to answer questions from The Economist, citing the fact that he was no longer attorney-general. The FIFA and Magnitsky cases suggest that the Swiss federal criminal-law system is “in deep trouble”, says Mr Pieth. In both, he says, prosecutors were unprofessionally close to third parties. Crucially, key meetings went unrecorded.

The tale of Russian money and cosy official links does not paint a flattering portrait of Switzerland, home to two big financial centres, Geneva and Zurich, and the largest market for offshore private wealth. There is no doubt the country has become less welcoming to dirty money over the past decade, including national wealth looted by kleptocrats. It is also more willing to help other Western governments pursue tax-dodgers, even handing over account data once deemed sacrosanct under its secrecy law. Yet the Magnitsky case undermines this tentative progress. Mr Browder goes further. The public evidence, he argues, points to conduct by Swiss officials that “strongly suggests something untoward is going on”. “This is not something anyone should expect from the Swiss. It makes them look like a banana republic.”

This article appeared in the Finance & economics section of the print edition under the headline “Tilting the scales”

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Swiss open money-laundering probe of Lebanon’s central financial institution | Enterprise and Financial system Information

The investigation is the latest blow of confidence for Lebanon’s crippled financial system.

Beirut, Lebanon – The Swiss authorities have asked the Lebanese judiciary to cooperate in a money laundering investigation by the country’s central bank in order to treat the bankrupt financial institution and its depressed governor with the latest loss of confidence.

The investigation focuses on $ 400 million in remittances allegedly tied to the bank’s 27-year-old governor, Riad Salameh, his brother Raja, and Salameh’s adviser Marianne Al-Hoayek, a court source told Al Jazeera. Institutions in which the bank has a large stake – including Middle East Airlines and the Casino du Liban – are also being scrutinized, the source said.

Salameh issued a statement denying any wrongdoing and dismissing overseas broadcast reports from him, his brother or his advisor as “falsifications and false news.” He threatened legal action against anyone who publishes the information in order to damage his reputation.

The Swiss Public Prosecutor’s Office did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment. Officials from the Swiss embassy in Beirut referred Al Jazeera to the public prosecutor. The outgoing Lebanese Justice Minister also did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters news agency quoted the Swiss Attorney General as saying it had asked Lebanon for legal assistance as part of an investigation into “increased money laundering” and possible embezzlement of the Lebanese central bank, formerly known as Banque du Liban.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Salameh was a suspect.

Tuesday’s news only deepens Salameh’s spectacular crash since late 2019, when Lebanon plunged into its deepest economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war. The Lebanese currency has since lost more than 80 percent of its value against the US dollar, and more than half of the population now lives in poverty.

Salameh has previously received numerous international bank awards and is a serious candidate for the country’s presidency. Since then, he has been targeted by anti-government demonstrators who, along with top politicians, blame him for the country’s financial collapse.

Meanwhile, the international community has made much-needed aid to Lebanon conditional on a forensic review by the central bank, which Salameh has been running since 1993.

The Swiss probe could still encounter obstacles in Lebanon. The court source said prosecutor Ghassan Khoury, who received the Swiss request, found a lack of evidence or evidence to justify the “detailed questions” the Swiss authorities are trying to ask Salameh and others.

Khoury could request more information before deciding whether to comply, the source said, noting that in 2020 Lebanon asked Swiss authorities for help with an investigation of an estimated US $ 2.4 billion that was made in the Protests of 2019 – transfers that circumvent unofficial capital controls were transferred outside the country.

Lebanon received no response at the time, the source said.