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France summons brother, assistant of Lebanon Central Bank boss in fraud probe

May 22, 2023 at 8:18 pm

Security forces raid the central bank in search of its governor Riad Salameh in the capital Beirut, Lebanon on July 19, 2022 [Houssam Shbaro – Anadolu Agency]

France’s judiciary has summoned the brother of, and an assistant to, Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor, two sources close to the matter told Reuters on Monday, as it continues its probe into alleged embezzlement and money-laundering by the bank chief, Reuters reports.

Central Bank chief, Riad Salameh, his brother, Raja Salameh, and his assistant, Marianne Hoayek, are being investigated in Lebanon, France and other countries for allegedly taking hundreds of millions in funds from the Central Bank.

The brothers have denied wrongdoing. Lawyers for Raja and for Hoayek did not respond to separate requests for comment.

France has set a hearing in Paris for his brother, Raja, on 31 May and for Hoayek on 13 June, a source close to the matter told Reuters. A Lebanese judicial source confirmed to Reuters that Lebanon’s judiciary had received the summons and was working to deliver them.

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France, last week, issued an arrest warrant for Salameh, 72, after he failed to attend his own hearing in Paris. Interpol subsequently issued a red notice.

Lebanon’s caretaker Justice Minister, Henry Khoury, told local broadcaster, Al-Jadeed, that he feared more European countries may follow suit and file their own charges against Salameh, which could have consequences on the country’s financial situation – already in freefall since 2019.

“The Governor must realise this and resign on his own,” Khoury said, adding his voice to those of the caretaker deputy Premier and Interior Minister who, last week, said Salameh should step down.

Lebanon’s cabinet met on Monday afternoon to discuss how the charges against Salameh might affect the Lebanese state and what legal options they may have to remove him, two government sources told Reuters.

But the meeting produced no concrete results, according to two separate government sources. A statement issued after the meeting said the cabinet would support whatever action the judiciary decided on.

The Salameh brothers and Hoayek have already been charged in two separate cases in Lebanon related to embezzlement and other financial crimes, but none of them are in custody.

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