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Lebanon's embattled central bank governor to 'sue' Bloomberg over report about US sanctions

Salameh says he will sue Bloomberg over a report denied by the US administration [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 March, 2021

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The statement by the office of Lebanon’s embattled banking chief is not the first instance of a legal threat against a Western media outlet covering the country's spiralling economic crisis.

The governor of Lebanon’s central bank, the Banque du Liban, announced plans to sue Bloomberg on Friday, after the news website carried a report which said that Washington was considering sanctions against the embattled official.

In a press release, Riad Salameh's office launched a scathing attack on the Bloomberg piece.

It slammed claims in the article as "crimes of news fabrication and defamation", saying they were as serious as acts of "national treason threatening the country’s financial stability and opportunities to escape the financial crisis".

Salameh's lawsuit would not only target Bloomberg, but its "correspondent in Beirut and everyone who stood behind them", the statement added. 

The legal threat came as the US State Department denied that President Biden's administration had considered sanctions against the central bank chief, who has led Lebanon’s now cash-strapped monetary authority since 1993.

The Bloomberg report quoted anonymous sources that alleged US President Joe Biden's administration was - in coordination with its European counterparts - considering the possibility of freezing the governor's overseas assets.

Read more: US denies weighing sanctions against 'disgraced' Lebanon Central Bank chief

Despite winning an award for being one of the best central bank chiefs in the world, Salameh’s role in Lebanon’s economic crisis has come under intense scrutiny and he is currently being investigated in Lebanon over allegations of embezzlement and corruption. He is also the target of a separate investigation in Switzerland over large money transfers made out of Lebanon.

Salameh’s response to the report is not the first threat of legal action by Lebanese officials against a Western media covering allegations of corruption and the country's economic crisis.

After a 2019 report in The Economist delved into the country’s dollar shortage, lawyers filed a complaint in Lebanon's Court of Cassation arguing the report 'damaged' Lebanon's reputation and financial status.

Critics from across the political spectrum have said that Salameh's financial policies led to Lebanon's ballooning sovereign debt and its first default in March last year. He is regarded as having run a Ponzi scheme, or a mechanism by which banks collected money from clients and deposited it at the Banque du Liban in return for interest.

He has denied any wrongdoing in response to the current investigation against him by Lebanese and Swiss authorities.

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