Europe investigators to visit Lebanon in central bank chief probe

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European investigators will visit Lebanon next month as part of a probe into the wealth of central bank governor Riad Salameh, a judicial official said on Tuesday.

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The long-serving central bank chief, 72, is among top officials widely blamed for Lebanon’s unprecedented economic crisis, dubbed one of the worst in modern global history by the World Bank.

In March, France, Germany and Luxembourg seized properties and frozen assets worth 120 million euros ($130 million) in a major operation linked to a probe launched by French investigators into Salameh’s personal wealth.

“Delegations including general prosecutors and investigative judges and financial prosecutors from Germany, Luxembourg and France... will arrive in Beirut between January 9 and 20,” the Lebanese judicial official told AFP.

The visit aims to conduct investigations into financial affairs linked to Salameh, the official added, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Authorities in the three European countries notified Lebanon’s general prosecutor of their intention to question “Salameh, officials at Lebanon’s central bank and the heads of commercial banks”, the official said.

The delegations have not requested assistance from the Lebanese judiciary, according to the official.

Lebanon opened a probe into Salameh’s wealth last year, after the office of Switzerland’s top prosecutor requested assistance in an investigation into more than $300 million which he allegedly embezzled out of the central bank with the help of his brother.

In June, a Lebanese prosecutor probing Salameh on suspicion of financial misconduct requested charges be issued against him based on preliminary investigative findings, a court official said at the time.

Both Salameh brothers have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The central bank chief has remained at the helm despite the probes and Lebanese courts imposing a travel ban on him.

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