Lebanon probe gets account data on central bank chief and brother Raja

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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
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By Timour Azhari

Beirut – A Lebanese probe into alleged embezzlement and money-laundering by the central bank governor and his brother received new account information on the brother on Thursday, two judicial sources said, in a development that could advance the investigation.

Central Bank Chief Riad Salameh is facing judicial probes in Lebanon and at least five European nations into the alleged embezzlement of at least $330 million in public funds by him and his younger brother, Raja.

Both have denied the accusations.

On Thursday, the central bank’s special investigation commission handed over account information from nine Lebanese banks on Raja Salameh to Lebanon’s top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat, the two judicial sources said.

The handover of complete information would mark significant progress in the investigations after months of delay.

Riad Salameh had earlier told Reuters that the bank’s commission, which he heads, had agreed to hand over the information and that he had stepped back from presiding over the body as far as it pertains to his case, “so there is no conflict of interest”.

Oueidat had previously sent letters to Lebanese banks asking them to provide the Lebanese judiciary with account information on Raja Salameh.

The banks had refused, citing banking secrecy laws, and instead provided information to the central bank’s commission.

The move came as a French judge investigating the Salameh brothers for money laundering and embezzlement visited Beirut on Thursday.

French investigative judge Aude Buresi met Oueidat and other judges, including prosecutor Jean Tannous, at a Beirut courthouse, in the first such visit by a French judge in Salameh’s case.

Her visit was aimed in part at increasing pressure on Lebanese authorities to secure account information relating to the Salameh brothers and other persons of interest in the probe, two people familiar with the matter said.

Buresi and the Lebanese judges also exchanged details of their investigations.

The French Embassy declined to comment, saying it was not involved in the coordination between the two judiciaries.

(Reuters)

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