Lebanon central bank chief quizzed over alleged graft

Lebanon central bank chief quizzed over alleged graft: source
2 min read
A Lebanese judge questioned Riad Salameh over graft allegations as part of a probe into financial misconduct, according to a judicial source
Riad Salameh is Lebanon's central bank chief [Getty]

A Lebanese judge on Thursday questioned central bank chief Riad Salameh over graft allegations as part of a probe into financial misconduct, a judicial source said.

Salameh, one of world's longest-serving central bank governors, is facing a spate of allegations, including in Switzerland and France, over suspicions of money laundering and embezzlement.

Lebanon opened a probe into his wealth in April, after Switzerland requested assistance for an investigation into more than $300 million which Salameh allegedly embezzled out of the central bank with the help of his brother.

Salameh has repeatedly denied the accusations.

On Thursday, judge Jean Tannous questioned Salameh as part of Lebanon's own investigation into allegations of "embezzlement of public funds, fraud... money laundering, tax evasion, and illicit enrichment", the source said.

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The grilling lasted three and a quarter hours, the source said.

The judge decided to "keep him under investigation until questioning is completed in further sessions," the source added, without giving a timeframe.

Salameh, who rarely appears before the judiciary, did not have his attorney present on Thursday because of a strike organised by the Beirut Bar Association, the source said.

In January, he was summoned by Lebanese judges to answer questions submitted by the Swiss attorney general.

Critics at home have blamed Salameh's monetary policies for a financial crisis in Lebanon but there have been no serious calls for his removal from a ruling class accused of benefiting from his central bank schemes.

After Switzerland opened its probe, France also launched a similar investigation into charges of aggravated money laundering in May.

Lebanon is grappling with an economic crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the worst since the mid-19th century.