Lebanon central bank chief did not attend French fraud hearing: Source

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Lebanon’s central bank chief did not attend a hearing in Paris on Tuesday where French prosecutors were expected to press preliminary fraud and money laundering charges against him, according to two sources with knowledge of his travel plans.

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Riad Salameh, alongside his brother and an assistant, are being investigated in Lebanon and at least five European countries for allegedly taking hundreds of millions of dollars from the central bank to the detriment of the state.

French prosecutors had set a hearing for him at 9:30 am on May 16, according to court documents seen by Reuters. French prosecutors intend to press the preliminary charges and formally name him a suspect during that hearing.

Two sources with knowledge of his travel plans told Reuters on Tuesday that Salameh had remained in Beirut. Neither Salameh nor his lawyer in Lebanon responded to requests for comment from
Reuters.

A senior judicial source said Lebanon’s judiciary was unable to deliver the summons to attend the Paris hearing as it was addressed to Salameh at the Central Bank and he was unavailable to receive it.

Another judicial source said the defense attorneys for the Salamehs and for the central bank chief’s assistant Marianne Hoayek had submitted an objection to Lebanon’s judiciary over the French case, saying France should not be allowed to try a case already being investigated in Lebanon.

The three have been charged in two separate cases in
Lebanon. Riad and Raja Salameh have denied diverting public funds and neither Hoayek nor her lawyer have spoken publicly about the charges.

Lebanon’s top public prosecutor said in January that Beirut could delay cooperating with foreign investigations pending progress on the local probes.

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