A European team finishes questioning the head of the Lebanese central bank

BEIRUT (AP) – A European legal team completed two days of questioning of Lebanon’s central bank governor in Beirut on Friday in a money laundering investigation linked to the governor, officials said.

Several European countries are investigating Governor Riyadh Salameh, who has been charged with corruption offenses in recent years, in a money laundering case worth around US$330 million. Salameh, 72, has been head of the Lebanese central bank since 1993.

He was interrogated for two hours on Friday and six hours the day before, according to Lebanese judicial officials. The European delegation — with representatives from France, Germany and Luxembourg — questioned Salameh through a Lebanese judge who acted as mediator. Under Lebanese law, MPs cannot question Salameh directly.

On Thursday, Salameh was questioned about an apartment in Paris rented by the Lebanese Central Bank and Forry Associates Ltd, a brokerage firm owned by Salameh’s brother Raja Salameh, officials told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity to follow the investigative process to discuss.

The questions mainly focused on the central bank, its assets and investments outside of Lebanon, the officials added.

Salameh later issued a statement saying he answered the questions out of respect for the law, adding that he was not questioned “as a suspect or accused.” He also denounced what he described as “evil intentions” against him.

“Nations are not built on lies,” said Salameh, who has repeatedly denied allegations of corruption.

The European team set April 15 to begin questioning Salameh’s brother and a female associate, Marianne Hoayek, officials also said.

Judge Helena Iskandar, who represents the Lebanese state in the European surveycharged Salameh, his brother and Hoayek with corruption on Wednesday.

In addition to the European investigation, further legal proceedings against Salameh are ongoing in Lebanon. End of February, Beirut Prosecutor Raja Hamoush accused the same three suspects of corruption, including embezzlement of public funds, forgery, illicit enrichment, money laundering and violating tax laws.

Lebanon is struggling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. The economic meltdown that began in late 2019 has its roots in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s political class. More than 75% of the tiny country’s 6 million population have been plunged into poverty.

Salameh was once hailed as the guardian of Lebanon’s financial stability, but many in the country now blame him for the crisis, citing policies that have pushed up the national debt. However, he still enjoys the backing of the country’s top politicians. His term ends in July and he has told local media that he wishes to step down from his post rather than pursue another term.

Source : news.yahoo.com

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