As part of an investigation into the riches of central bank governor Riad Salameh, European investigators will travel to Lebanon next month, a judicial official announced on Tuesday.
The 72-year-old long-serving head of the central bank is one of the top figures widely accused of causing Lebanon’s catastrophic economic crisis, which the World Bank has termed one of the worst in contemporary history.
In a significant operation connected to a French investigation into Salameh’s personal riches, France, Germany, and Luxembourg confiscated homes and frozen assets totaling 120 million euros ($130 million) in March.
According to the Lebanese court official, delegations from Germany, Luxembourg, and France, as well as general prosecutors, investigative judges, and financial prosecutors, will arrive in Beirut between January 9 and 20.The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, continued, “The visit seeks to conduct inquiries into financial affairs associated to Salameh.”
The source further stated that authorities in the three European nations informed the general prosecutor of Lebanon of their plan to investigate “Salameh, officials at Lebanon’s central bank, and the heads of commercial banks.” The delegates have not asked the Lebanese judiciary for help.
Following a request for assistance from Switzerland’s top prosecutor in a probe into more than $300 million that Salameh is claimed to have embezzled from the central bank with the aid of his brother, Lebanon launched an investigation into Salameh’s fortune last year.
According to a court official at the time, a Lebanese prosecutor looking into Salameh on suspicion of financial impropriety asked for charges to be brought against him in June based on early investigative results. Neither Salameh brother has ever been found guilty of a crime.
Despite the investigations and the travel ban placed on him by Lebanese courts, the head of the central bank has stayed in his position.
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