Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Salameh is being investigated in Lebanon and several European countries for alleged misconduct, including money laundering.

Beirut, Lebanon – A Lebanese judge on Tuesday slammed Banque du Liban’s governor Riad Salameh as the country’s once-awarded steward faces investigations into financial misconduct at home and abroad.

“He is scheduled for an interrogation on Thursday, based on the clear evidence we have,” Judge Ghada Aoun, who investigated Salameh, told Al Jazeera. “There is important information that we need to verify in the interrogation.”

The judge interviewed senior central bank employees earlier today. The ban, first reported by Reuters News Agency, took effect immediately.

Lawyers for an activist group called “The People Demand the Reform of the Regime” filed a lawsuit earlier Tuesday to impose a travel ban on Salameh.

Haitham Ezzo, one of the group’s lawyers, told Al Jazeera Salameh was charged with a handful of financial crimes, including illegal enrichment, money laundering, embezzlement and squandering of public funds.

Ezzo added that the lawyers had evidence that Salameh had rented a small apartment on the Champs-Élysées in Paris via Lebanon’s central bank, at a high price.

“He personally benefits from the difference,” Ezzo claimed.

Once it was announced for financial capability, Salameh is held responsible by many in Lebanon for a financial collapse that left the country’s banks largely insolvent and wiped out the life savings of many Lebanese.

Salameh is under investigation in Lebanon and four European countries. Switzerland and France opened investigations last year into alleged money laundering in which he was involved.

Salameh has repeatedly denied being involved in any transgression during his nearly three decades at the helm of the Banque du Liban. He says the allegations against him are politically motivated and that his personal wealth was amassed before he became central bank manager.

Tuesday’s travel ban comes as the Lebanese pound continues to spiral, having lost 15 percent of its value over the past few days. It has lost more than 95 percent of its value since the country first plunged into a crisis at the end of 2019. Three-quarters of the population lives in poverty, and the government has not met since last October.

Ezzo says his activist group wants the Lebanese courts to go even further and freeze all of Salameh’s assets. They successfully filed a lawsuit in July 2020 to freeze some of its assets.

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