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UK crime agency considers investigating Lebanon corruption report: sources

Lebanon has endured a deteriorating financial situation [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 April, 2021

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A report by a group of London-based lawyers accused Lebanon's central bank governor and associates of money laundering and corrupt practices.
The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) is reviewing a report  that accused Lebanon's central bank Governor Riad Salameh and associates of money laundering and corrupt practices, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. 

The 76-page report by London-based lawyers reveals assets, companies and investment vehicles in Britain worth hundreds of millions of pounds, which Salameh, members of his family and his associates have reportedly used to divert funds out of Lebanon.

Salameh, who has led Lebanon's central bank since 1993,  rejected the report's allegations and called it part of a smear campaign.

"They are false allegations," he told Reuters.

London-based legal practice Guernica37 submitted the report to British police late last year.

They said it was then referred to Britain's NCA. The report was prepared on behalf a group from Lebanese civil society in the diaspora.

"We can confirm we have received that report, but we are not in a position to comment further," a spokesman for the NCA told Reuters, declining to say whether an investigation had been launched.

Two of the sources said NCA's financial investigation unit was carrying out a preliminary investigation to determine whether there were sufficient grounds to start a formal investigation.

Read More: As Lebanon's politicians stall, its people suffer hopelessly

The Guernica37 probe is one of several underway or being planned in Europe that target officials in Lebanon's financial sector and its broader political class.

Salameh has previously faced corruption allegations amid Lebanon's worsening financial crisis. He was summoned to court last December as part of an investigation into how central bank dollars ended up in the black market, but refused to attend.

Guernica37 co-founder Toby Caldman said in a statement to Reuters that the group's report was one of a number of legal filings it had prepared on Lebanon for the British authorities.

"Our intention is to address, investigate and expose all pillars of alleged corruption in the country," he said.

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