European team ends questioning of Lebanon Central Bank chief


BEIRUT — A European legal team on Friday ended two days of questioning Lebanon’s central bank chief in Beirut in a money-laundering probe linked to the governor.

Several European countries are investigating Governor Riyad Salama, who has been accused of corruption-related crimes in recent years. Salama, 72, has been head of Lebanon’s central bank since 1993.

Salama was questioned for two hours on Friday and six hours the day before, Lebanese judicial officials said. The European delegation – along with representatives from France, Germany and Luxembourg – questioned Salama through a Lebanese judge. Under Lebanese law, representatives cannot question Salama directly.

On Thursday, the team asked Salama about an apartment on the Champs-Élysées in Paris that was rented by the central bank and Fari Associates Ltd., a brokerage firm owned by Salama’s brother, Raja, officials said. Yes, officials said, whether the company exists. He added that Salama was “confident” when answering questions in French.

Salama was scheduled to be questioned on Wednesday but she did not appear.

The European team has set April 15 to begin questioning the governor’s brother, Raja Salama, and the governor’s aide, Marianne Hawek, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Salama, who has repeatedly denied corruption allegations, has not made a public statement since the interrogation began this week.

Judge Helena Iskandar, who is representing the Lebanese state in European questions.Along with Salama, Raja Salama and Howik were charged with corruption on Wednesday.

In addition to the European investigation, other legal proceedings against Salama are underway in Lebanon. At the end of February, Rajah Hamoush, Public Prosecutor of Beirut The same three suspects – the governor, his brother and an aide – were charged with corruption, including embezzlement of public funds, forgery, illegal enrichment, money laundering and violation of tax laws.

The European delegation is investigating the laundering of around $330 million.

Lebanon is facing the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. The economic downturn that began in late 2019 is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s political class. More than 75 percent of the small country’s 6 million population is mired in poverty.

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