Lebanon central bank governor says has never hidden personal wealth

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Lebanon’s central bank governor, Riad Salameh, said on Wednesday he had asked a renowned firm to audit transactions and investments that have been subject to “continous media speculation”.

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In a statement, Salameh said the audit by the firm he did not name would be shared with judicial authorities and other persons if relevant, and added that he had never hidden his personal wealth.

Salameh is being investigated in three European nations, including a Swiss inquiry opened in January over alleged “aggravated money laundering” at the central bank involving $300 million in gains by a company owned by his brother.

In his statement, Salameh said the audit had shown that “not a single penny” was used from public funds to pay fees and commissions to his brother’s company Forry Associates Ltd.

Salameh’s brother Raja has not publicly commented on the case.

Salameh said the source of his wealth was “clear and documented”, as he had been a successful private banker at Merrill Lynch for around 20 years with an annual income of around $2 million before he left that company in 1993.

“My wealth amounted in 1993, that is 28 years ago, to $23 million in addition to inherited assets,” Salameh said in the statement, adding that it was invested and has grown in value.

Salameh has faced increased scrutiny of his 28-year tenure as central bank governor following the collapse of Lebanon’s financial system.

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