In Lebanon, the governor of the central bank is accused of corruption

In a file photo taken on November 23, 2021, Lebanon's central bank governor Riad Salameh is heard speaking during ...

Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon's central bank, has been accused of embezzlement, money laundering, and illegal enrichment, according to the official news agency.

According to the National News Agency, public prosecutor Judge Raja Hamoush has also brought charges against Mr. Salameh's brother Raja and a consultant.

Any wrongdoing is refuted by the brothers.

The decision by the judge comes after an 18-month investigation into claims that they stole $300 million (£249 million) from the Banque du Liban between 2002 and 2015.

Since 2019, Riad Salameh, who has served as the bank's president for 30 years, has come under intense scrutiny for his part in Lebanon's economic collapse.

The nation is going through one of the worst and longest-lasting depressions the world has ever seen, with its currency losing more than 90% of its value against the dollar and the annual inflation rate skyrocketing to 170 percent last year.

More than 80% of the population is now in poverty and struggles to pay for food and medicine as a result.

In spite of years of political unrest, Mr. Salameh was widely praised before the crisis for maintaining the stability of the Lebanese pound and the functioning of the banking system.

The National News Agency reported on Thursday that Riad Salameh, Raja Salameh, and his assistant Marianne Howayek had been accused by Judge Hamoush of embezzling public funds, forging documents, obtaining illicit benefit, money laundering, and breaking tax laws.

However, it stated that the judge had sent the case file to Beirut First Investigative Judge Charbel Bou Samra, "demanding that they be interrogated and that the necessary judicial warrants be issued against them." It did not provide any additional information.

In a text message, Riad Salameh assured the Reuters news agency that the accusations were "not an indictment" and pledged to assist the legal system.

"As you know, one is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law," he wrote, "and as such, I am respectful of the laws and of the judicial system and will abide by the procedure.".

As part of an effort to blame him for Lebanon's economic collapse, he has previously dismissed the accusations.

His detractors have questioned how he built up a sizable personal fortune.

He has insisted that the $23 million he earned as an investment banker before taking over as governor of the Banque du Liban in 1993 was the source of the money. He claims that he "wisely invested" that money, increasing his wealth over time.

Authorities are also looking into Mr. Salameh and his brother in Switzerland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein due to similar allegations.

Last month, a legal delegation consisting of representatives from three of these European nations visited Beirut to interview bankers and other witnesses. To continue their investigation, they are expected to return in early March.

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