The head of Lebanon’s central bank was again accused of corruption on Wednesday, this time after failing to appear before a European legal team visiting Beirut in a money-laundering probe involving the governor, officials said.
According to judicial officials, Governor Riyad Salameh, his brother Raja Salameh and an aide, Marianne Hoyck, were charged with corruption and ordered into custody. His properties were also attached.
The case is separate from other ongoing legal proceedings against Salameh in Lebanon. In late February, Beirut’s public prosecutor Raja Hamoush charged all three with corruption, including embezzlement of public funds, forgery, illegal enrichment, money-laundering and violation of tax laws.
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Officials said Judge Helena Iskandar, who is representing the Lebanese state in the inquiry into the European investigation, filed charges on Wednesday against the governor and two others. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.
The European delegation – along with representatives from France, Germany and Luxembourg – spent nearly two hours waiting for Salameh at Beirut’s Justice Palace. The Europeans were to interrogate Salameh through another Lebanese judge, who was acting as an intermediary. Under Lebanese laws, they cannot question Salameh directly.
Lebanon’s Central Bank governor and two others accused of corruption, embezzlement of public funds
Salameh’s counsel appeared and submitted a plea that his client should not be questioned by foreign judicial authorities. The request was denied by the prosecutor’s office and a new session was set for Thursday. It was unclear whether Salameh would appear at the time.
It was the European delegation’s second visit to Beirut after a visit in January, when they questioned nine people, including current and former central bank officials as well as the heads of several banks in the crisis-hit Mediterranean country.
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The European delegation is investigating the laundering of approximately $330 million. Judicial officials said the questioning is expected to last till Friday.
Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. The economic downturn, which began in October 2019 and is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s political class, has plunged more than 75% of the tiny country’s population of 6 million into poverty.
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