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Lebanon’s embattled Central Bank chief appeared Thursday for questioning for the first time before a European legal team visiting Beirut in a money-laundering probe linked to the governor.
Several European countries are investigating Riad Salameh, who in recent years has been charged with a handful of corruption-related crimes. Salameh has been Lebanon’s central bank governor since 1993.
The questioning was originally scheduled for Wednesday. Salameh did not show up.
GOVERNOR OF LEBANON’S CENTRAL BANK AND 2 OTHERS CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION, EMBEZZLING PUBLIC FUNDS
Riad Salameh, Lebanon’s Central Bank governor, attends a news conference in Beirut on Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
Judicial officials told The Associated Press that Judge Helena Iskandar, who is representing the Lebanese state at the questioning in the European probe, charged Salameh, his brother Raja and associate Marianne Hoayek with corruption and ordered detained after the Central Bank chief did not show up. Their assets were also frozen. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press.
In addition to the European probe, there are other legal proceedings against Salameh underway in Lebanon. In late February, Beirut’s public prosecutor, Raja Hamoush, charged the three with corruption, including embezzling public funds, forgery, illicit enrichment, money-laundering and violation of tax laws.
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The European delegation is investigating the laundering of some $330 million. The questioning was expected to last until Friday, the judicial officials said.
Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. The economic meltdown, 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 nation’s population of 6 million into poverty.