The French prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into money laundering allegations against the longtime head of Lebanon’s central bank, Riyad Salameh, who is also accused of having links to an organized crime group.
The French prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into allegations of money laundering against the governor of Lebanon’s central bank, the prosecutor’s office said on Monday.
The move comes after Switzerland launched an investigation into possible money laundering and embezzlement at Lebanon’s central bank, which is now at the root of Lebanon’s deep financial crisis.
The French prosecutor’s office said that the investigation into Riyadh Salameh began in late May on charges of money laundering and links to an organized criminal group.
Salameh, 70, has run Lebanon’s central bank since 1993 and has long been seen as a symbol of monetary stability in the country.
Salameh’s French lawyer, Pierre-Olivier Sur, denied the allegations in a statement sent to Reuters by the bank’s manager on Sunday, calling it a politically motivated “communication operation”.
In 2019, Lebanon fell into life և memory of its worst economic and financial crisis. Since then, the country’s currency, the Lebanese pound, has lost about 90 percent of its value on the black market, tightening the purchasing power of ordinary Lebanese.
More than 40 percent of Lebanese households reported challenges in paying for food and other necessities.
Last Thursday, Salame assured depositors that a central bank called Banque du Liban was not bankrupt, that people’s deposits were safe and would be returned soon. overturn the decision stop withdrawing from dollar deposit accounts, which has caused street protests.
Protesters in Lebanon are now calling Salameh, a former investment banker with Meryl Lynch, a “thief”.
Protests have been held outside his office in Beirut as the economic crisis intensified. According to the World Bank, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell from $ 55 billion in $ 2019 to $ 33 billion last year, and per capita GDP fell by about 40%.
In January, the Swiss Prosecutor General announced that he had asked Lebanon to cooperate in the investigation of the Central Bank.
Lebanese media have reported in recent months that Salameh, his brother and other aides were involved in the illegal business. The charges include remittances abroad despite capital controls in the country.
Salame denied making such transfers.
The French anti-corruption group Sherpa filed a lawsuit against Salameh in April, citing investments, including millions of euros in property.
Responding last month, Salameh said he had shown that his assets had been acquired before he took office almost 30 years ago.
In April, Lebanon launched its own investigation into a Swiss lawsuit alleging that more than $ 300 million had been embezzled from the central bank through a company owned by Salameh’s brother.
Lebanon’s financial and political elite has come under increasing scrutiny over allegations of mismanagement, corruption and obstruction of international aid.