Lebanon central bank chief Salameh charged with corruption

A file photo shows central bank governor Riad Salameh. Lebanon’s State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat requested charges be issued against Salameh on suspicion of financial misconduct such as embezzlement , forgery, money laundering, illicit enrichment and tax evasion , based on preliminary investigation Feb 22 2022

BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese judge said Monday she has filed charges against the country’s central bank governor, accusing him of illegal enrichment and money laundering during Lebanon’s economic meltdown. 

Ghada Aoun, an investigative judge at Mount Lebanon district court, told The Associated Press that Governor Riad Salameh’s brother, Raja Salameh, who was detained last week, was also charged with “taking part in these crimes.” 

Aoun also ordered that the brother’s assets be frozen.

The move came as the banking sector went on a two-day strike Monday to protest recent moves by Lebanon’s judiciary against local lenders. Lebanon’s economic crisis erupted in 2019 — the worst in its modern history.

Aoun said that the Salameh brothers and a Ukrainian citizen had formed three illusive companies in France to buy property there. Aoun said last week that Riad Salameh had used his brother to buy real-estate in France worth nearly $12 million.

Riad Salameh, who has been heading the central bank for three decades, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He did not show up Monday morning for questioning by Aoun . Raja Salameh, who was detained on Thursday, will remain in custody.

The suit against the Salamehs was filed by a group of lawyers who accuse the governor of corruption.

In January, Aoun imposed a travel ban and froze some of the assets of the 71-year-old governor who is also being investigated in several European nations, including Switzerland and France, for potential money laundering and embezzlement.

Riad Salameh had steered Lebanese finances since 1993, through post-war recovery and bouts of unrest. Once praised as the guardian of Lebanon’s financial stability, he has drawn increasing scrutiny since the small country’s economic meltdown began in late 2019.