Lebanon President Aoun promises central bank audit will provide accountability
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun promised on Monday that an audit into the country's central bank crucial for financial rescue would hold the organisation accountable, despite efforts to limit the probe.
The audit is a condition for Lebanon to secure foreign aid to help it recover from a financial meltdown the World Bank described as one of the world's sharpest ever economic depressions.
Earlier this month, the staff union of Lebanon's central bank said it did not want personal data handed over to the restructuring consultancy Alvarez and Marsal (A&M), which could further hamper attempts to carry out the audit.
Aoun is monitoring attempts to overcome "artificial obstacles" discouraging the company from carrying out a forensic audit, his media office said in a statement.
مكتب الاعلام في الرئاسة: يشدد الرئيس عون على أنّ هذا النهج التدميري لاقتصادنا وسبل عيشنا الكريم وقوّة نقدنا سوف يسقط مع رموزه، ولن يصيب رئيس الجمهورية اي كلل أو إنهاك قبل تحقيق ذلك— Lebanese Presidency (@LBpresidency) January 31, 2022
The statement added the presidency hopes that there is not "something to hide in the accounts of the bank".
Aoun criticised what he called the "deliberate procrastination" by the central bank in handing over the complete data required by A&M.
The central bank issued a statement on Monday responding to the president's criticisms, saying it provided A&M with all the required data "in a manner that doesn't conflict with the law and international standards."
The central bank said it stresses A&M should start its work and make sure itself that the data provided is correct.
Central bank governor Riad Salameh, who denies any wrongdoing during almost three decades leading the central bank, is being probed in Lebanon and at least four European countries, with his role under close scrutiny since Lebanon's economic collapse in 2019.
"The Lebanese people have the right to know how the gap in the central bank's accounts arose and grew. Private banks stumbled, depositors' money was wasted, and a lifetime was robbed," the president added.
The gap refers to a portion of losses in Lebanon's financial sector attributable to the central bank.
The governor has support from several top politicians and stayed in his post even as the economy has been crushed by huge debts, the currency has collapsed and many Lebanese have been driven into poverty.
Aoun "promises the people that accountability is coming," the statement said.