France opens an investigation into the corruption of the head of the central bank of Lebanon | Your money
PARIS (AP) – The French national financial prosecutor’s office has opened a preliminary investigation into the actions of the governor of the central bank of Lebanon involving potential money laundering, the prosecutor’s office said on Monday.
The French move came months after Switzerland launched an investigation into possible money laundering and embezzlement at Lebanon’s central bank, which is now at the center of an unprecedented financial crisis shaking the small Mediterranean country.
The French prosecution said the investigation around Riad Salameh was opened at the end of May, involving potential charges of money laundering and association with an organized criminal group. He gave no further details.
Salameh, 70, who headed Lebanon’s central bank for nearly three decades was for many years seen as the symbol of monetary stability in the small country. But in 2019 Lebanon was plunged into its worst economic and financial crisis. The Lebanese pound, pegged for more than 20 years to the dollar at 1,515, is now trading at nearly 13,000 on the black market.
Anti-government protesters are now calling Salameh – a former investment banker for Merrill Lynch – a “thief” and protests have repeatedly taken place outside his office in Beirut amid the local currency crash and the contraction of the economy. economy that exceeded 20% in 2020, according to the World Bank.
In January, Switzerland’s attorney general said he had asked Lebanon to cooperate with the central bank’s investigation, without giving further details. It is also not known what motivated the Swiss investigation.
Local media have reported in recent months that Salameh and his brother as well as one of his associates have been implicated in illegal ventures, including money transfers abroad despite the capital controls imposed in the country. . Salameh had denied having made such transfers.
Salameh, who has served as a central bank since 1993, defended his role, alleging a systematic campaign to hold him responsible for the country’s financial crisis.
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