A European legal team on Friday concluded a two-day interrogation of the head of the Lebanese central bank in Beirut in a money laundering investigation linked to the governor, officials said.
Several European countries are investigating Governor Riad Salameh, who has been accused of corruption-related offenses in recent years, in a money laundering case involving around $330 million. Salameh, 72, has been the head of Lebanon’s central bank since 1993.
He was interrogated for two hours on Friday and six hours the day before, according to Lebanese judicial officials. The European delegation – with representatives from France, Germany and Luxembourg – interrogated Salameh through a Lebanese judge, who acted as an intermediary. According to Lebanese law, representatives cannot question Salameh directly.
On Thursday, Salameh was questioned about an apartment in Paris rented by the Lebanese central bank and Forry Associates Ltd, a brokerage firm owned by Salameh’s brother, Raja Salameh, officials told the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation process.
HEAD OF LEBANON CENTRAL BANK ATTENDS FIRST HEARING FOR CORRUPTION IN MONEY LAUNDERING INVESTIGATION
The questions focused mainly on the central bank, its assets and investments outside Lebanon, the officials added.
Salameh later released a statement saying he had answered questions out of compliance with the law, adding he had not been questioned “as a suspect or accused”. He also denounced what he described as “bad intentions” against him.
“Nations are not built on lies,” said Salameh, who has repeatedly denied the corruption allegations.
The European team set April 15 to begin questioning Salameh’s brother and an associate, Marianne Hoayek, officials also said.
THE GOVERNOR OF THE CENTRAL BANK OF LEBANON AND 2 OTHERS ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION FOR IN-DEPTH OF PUBLIC FUNDS
Judge Helena Iskandar, who represents the Lebanese state in European interrogation, charged Salameh, her brother and Hoayek with corruption on Wednesday.
In addition to the European inquiry, other judicial proceedings against Salameh are ongoing in Lebanon. In late February, Beirut prosecutor Raja Hamoush charged the same three suspects with corruption, including embezzlement of public funds, forgery, illicit enrichment, money laundering and violation of tax laws.
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Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. The economic meltdown that began in late 2019 is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s political class. More than 75 percent of the tiny nation’s 6 million people have plunged into poverty.
Salameh was once hailed as the guardian of Lebanon’s financial stability, but many in the country now hold him responsible for the crisis, citing policies that have pushed up the national debt. However, he still enjoys the support of the country’s top politicians. His term expires in July and he has told local media that he would like to resign from his post instead of pursuing another term.