BEIRUT (AP) – A European legal team on Friday wrapped up two days of questioning the head of Lebanon’s central bank in Beirut in a money-laundering probe linked to the governor.
Several European countries are investigating Governor Riad Salameh, who has been accused of corruption-related crimes in recent years. Salameh (72) has been at the head of the Lebanese central bank since 1993.
Salameh was interrogated for two hours on Friday and six hours the day before, Lebanese judicial officials said. A European delegation — with representatives from France, Germany and Luxembourg — interrogated Salameh through a Lebanese judge, who acted as mediator. Under Lebanese law, representatives cannot question Salameh directly.
On Thursday, the team asked Salameh about an apartment on Paris’s Champs Elysees rented by the central bank and Forry Associates Ltd, a brokerage firm owned by Salameh’s brother Raj, about whether the company existed, officials said. They added that Salameh was “confident” when answering questions in French.
Salameh’s interrogation was supposed to begin on Wednesday, but he did not appear.
The European team has set April 15 to begin questioning the governor’s brother, Raj Salameh, and the governor’s aide, Marianne Hoayek, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to comply with regulations.
Salameh, who has repeatedly denied corruption allegations, has not made any public statements since his interrogation began this week.
Judge Helena Iskandar, who is representing the Lebanese state in the European inquiry, charged Salameh, as well as Raja Salameh and Hoayek, with corruption on Wednesday.
Apart from the European investigation, there are other legal proceedings against Salameh in Lebanon. In late February, Beirut’s public prosecutor, Raja Hamoush, charged the same three suspects — the governor, his brother and an aide — with corruption, including embezzlement of public funds, forgery, illicit enrichment, money laundering and tax violations.
The European delegation is investigating the laundering of around 330 million dollars.
Lebanon is struggling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. The economic meltdown that began in late 2019 is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s political class. More than 75% of the small nation’s population of 6 million is mired in poverty.