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Monaco closes Najib Mikati investigation due to lack of evidence

Najib-Mikati
The verdict was announced after a three-year investigation on Monegasque soil © Najib Mikati on Facebook

The Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister and billionaire was suspected, among other things, of money laundering.

A three-year investigation has just come to an end. As confirmed by the British press agency Reuters,  the Principality officially announced in August that it was closing the investigation into the Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, due to insufficient evidence.

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According to Ici Beyrouth, the announcement was made by Morgan Raymond, Monaco’s Deputy Public Prosecutor, to Najib Mikati’s lawyers on Friday 25 August. Mr. Mikati was suspected of illicit enrichment and money laundering. The suspicions stemmed from several accusations made against him, which led Monaco to open the case in 2020.

An article published by Libnanews claims that everything began in 2019. At the time, several Lebanese politicians and wealthy individuals were accused of having benefited from housing loans that were subsidised by the Lebanese central bank. Najib Mikati and several members of his family were targeted by the allegations. Lebanon duly opened an investigation.

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Najib Mikati, businessman and statesman

After all, Najib Mikati is not just anyone: born in Tripoli, he has not only been appointed President of the Lebanese Council of Ministers on several occasions, but is also a prominent businessman thanks to the telecommunications company he founded with his brother in 1982. In 2007, the Mikati company became the M1 Group: an investment holding company that was no longer concerned purely with telecommunications, but also had stakes in retail, energy, and property.

In 2005, the two brothers also founded Investcom, a company listed on the London and Dubai stock exchanges, which was bought a year later by the South African company MTN for $5.5 billion.

Najib Mikati’s personal net worth even hit $6.4 billion in 2022, according to Forbes, placing him, according to L’Orient le Jour, in the top 1,000 of the world’s wealthiest people. Najib Mikati is also one of six Lebanese billionaires.

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But a number of affairs have cast a shadow over his success. Again according to L’Orient le Jour, Najib Mikati’s name was cited in the famous Pandora Papers affair in 2021.

Monaco launches its own investigation

And a year prior to the Pandora Papers, Monaco also opened an investigation into the Lebanese billionaire. The businessman maintains close links with the Principality, notably through M1 Group, one of whose branches – M1 Real Estate – is based in Monaco.

The Principality therefore collaborated with Lebanon to determine whether or not Najib Mikati and his family were guilty of illicit enrichment and money laundering, in particular by obtaining subsidised housing loans from the Lebanese central bank.

According to the Financial Times, Monaco even requested assistance from the Lebanese authorities to find evidence of the alleged money laundering, in January. The alternative Lebanese news website Daraj, which was founded in 2017 and is behind the accusation in the Pandora Papers, has also claimed – according to Reuters – that Najib Mikati bought an offshore company in Panama, called Hessvile, through which he is said to have bought a property in Monaco for seven million euros.

Politically motivated false accusations?

However, again according to the press agency, the billionaire is said to have countered that his family fortune comes solely from his telecommunications business, whose legality has been verified and proven in the past. Moreover, Najib Mikati denied all the accusations made against him.

The verdict was announced after a three-year investigation on Monegasque soil. Monaco has closed the case due to insufficient evidence, stating in a press release that the accusations of money laundering appear to be “unfounded.

In response, the businessman’s lawyers issued a statement, as reported by Ici Beyrouth: “It is important to ensure that there are no further ongoing investigations, enquiries or accusations against members of Mr. Mikati’s family abroad.” Najib Mikati even promises that he and his family “will take the necessary legal action against those who started and spread the rumours and lies, so that justice can be [done].” 

Libnanews adds that the press release also states that “the Mikati family has always been confident that this would be the outcome, as they were aware that these claims had no basis.” Najib Mikati is also said to have stated: “I believe that these investigations were triggered by false and politically motivated [accusations]. I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of the Lebanese people.”

According to Libananews, Lebanon also appears to have decided to close the investigation in 2022, after the first Beirut investigating judge in charge of the case, Charbel Abou Samra, filed a motion to dismiss the case and demanded that this decision be final.