France charges Lebanon bank chief’s ex-assistant in graft probe

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France on Friday charged a former assistant of Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon’s central bank and a subject of judicial probes at home and abroad, with money laundering.

In March 2022, France, Germany and Luxembourg seized assets worth 120 million euros ($130 million) in a move linked to a probe into Salameh’s wealth.

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Salameh is accused of having amassed a fortune during some three decades in the job. Once hailed as the guardian of Lebanon’s financial stability, he is being increasingly blamed for the country’s financial meltdown.

Many say he helped precipitate the crisis.

Salameh’s term ends in July.

A judicial source said Marianne Hoayek, 43, was questioned on Friday in Paris and placed under investigation for criminal conspiracy and money laundering.

“Marianne Hoayek contests these accusations and will provide proof that these funds came mainly from donations from her father,” a rich businessman now deceased, her lawyer Mario Stasi told AFP.

Salameh, 72, denies any wrongdoing and says he built his fortune when he worked in US investment bank Merrill Lynch before becoming the governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank in 1993.

Judicial authorities in France and Munich in Germany had issued arrest warrants for Salameh over accusations including money laundering and fraud, and Interpol subsequently issued Red Notices targeting him.

An Interpol Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant but asks authorities worldwide to provisionally detain people pending possible extradition or other legal action.

European investigators had questioned Salameh in Beirut, also hearing from others including Hoayek and Salameh’s brother Raja and central bank audit firms.

Lebanon does not extradite its nationals, but Salameh could go on trial in Lebanon if local judicial authorities decide the accusations against him are founded, an official previously told AFP.

Following the Red Notices, a local judge questioned Salameh, confiscated his French and Lebanese passports, banned him from travelling and released him pending investigation.

Read more: Lebanon judge questions Riad Salameh over Munich arrest warrant

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