Lebanon’s central bank chief Salameh hit with travel ban | Business and Economy News
Salameh is under investigation in Lebanon and several European countries for alleged misconduct, including money laundering.
Beirut, Lebanon – A Lebanese judge on Tuesday imposed a travel ban on Banque du Liban governor Riad Salameh, as the once-vaunted steward of the country’s economy faces inquiries for financial misconduct in his country and the foreigner.
“He is to be questioned on Thursday, based on the clear evidence we have,” Judge Ghada Aoun, who investigated Salameh, told Al Jazeera. “There is important information that we must verify during the interrogation.”
The judge had interviewed senior central bank officials earlier today. The ban, which was first reported by Reuters news agency, went into effect immediately.
Lawyers for an activist group called “The people demand regime reform” filed a legal demand earlier Tuesday to impose a travel ban on Salameh.
Haitham Ezzo, one of the lawyers for the group, told Al Jazeera that Salameh is accused of a handful of financial crimes, including illicit enrichment, money laundering, embezzlement and squandering of public funds. .
Ezzo added that lawyers have evidence that Salameh rented a small apartment on the Champs-Elysees in Paris through Lebanon’s central bank, at an inflated price.
“He personally benefits from the difference,” said Ezzo.
Once heralded for his financial prowess, 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 the subject of several investigations in Lebanon and in four European countries. Switzerland and France opened investigations into allegations of money laundering against him last year.
Salameh has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing during his nearly three decades as the head of Banque du Liban. He says the allegations against him are politically motivated and his personal fortune was amassed before he became central bank governor.
Tuesday’s travel ban comes as the Lebanese pound continues to climb, having lost 15 percent of its value in the past few days. It has lost more than 95% of its value since the country first plunged into crisis in late 2019. Three quarters of the population live 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 legal complaint to freeze some of his assets in July 2020.