Lebanon top prosecutor tells judge investigating banks to pause probe

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Lebanon’s top prosecutor on Tuesday told a judge investigating the financial transactions of commercial banks to temporarily halt her work, a week after the country’s caretaker prime minister also moved to block her investigations.

Lebanese judge Ghada Aoun has been investigating the banking sector since it collapsed in 2019 following decades of corrupt government, profligate spending and financial mismanagement.

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On Tuesday, top prosecutor Ghassan Oweidat sent her a letter, seen by Reuters, requesting she “stop her investigative and probing procedures temporarily, until decisions are taken on the issues raised.”

Aoun did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

She faces several complaints over her work. Last week, caretaker premier Najib Mikati told the interior minister to order security forces not to carry out Aoun’s judicial decisions, which Mikati said were “overstepping” authority.

Mawlawi issued a directive, seen by Reuters, telling Lebanon’s General Security directorate and the Internal Security Forces not to act on Aoun’s orders.

Aoun responded on Twitter that the moves represented “a total breakdown of justice in this poor country.” She called it “an unprecedented interference in the work of the judiciary.”

Politicians retain significant influence over judges’ appointments and prerogatives in Lebanon, where commercial banks also have sway.

The banks have been on strike since February 7 following a meeting to discuss the snowballing legal measures they have been facing since Lebanon’s economy began to unravel in 2019.

Those measures include steps Aoun has taken. This month, she has filed charges of money laundering against two banks.

But the banks suspended their strike for a week following Mikati’s move against Aoun and said they were waiting for a long-term resolution of the “deficiency” in the judiciary.

There was no immediate comment from the banks following Oweidat’s letter on Tuesday.

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