Lebanese judge freezes assets of central bank governor

BEIRUT (AP) — An investigative judge in Beirut on Tuesday froze some assets belonging to the country’s central bank governor, who is accused of corruption and neglect of duty during Lebanon’s unprecedented economic collapse.

Judge Ghada Aoun said she ordered the freeze “as a precautionary measure” as an investigation into the allegations against Governor Riad Salameh continues. The governor asked to appear for questioning on Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by a Lebanese anti-corruption group.

Last week, Aoun issued a travel ban for Salameh in the same case. The longtime central bank governor is also under investigation in a handful of European countries on suspicion of money laundering.

Deeply divided Lebanon is going through its worst economic meltdown, with the value of the national currency plummeting, foreign exchange reserves dwindling and the heavily indebted government unable to agree on an economic recovery plan.

Many hold Salameh responsible for the financial crisis, blaming him for policies that have only increased the national debt and caused the currency to fall. But Salameh, 71, has been in office for nearly three decades and enjoys the support of most politicians, including the country’s prime minister.

Salameh dismissed the lawsuit against him – brought by a group of lawyers known as “The People Want to Reform the Regime” – as political, saying it lacked evidence. He asked that Judge Aoun be removed from the case and accused her of bias.

It was not immediately clear how authorities would implement the order, which includes seven residential units owned by Salameh and four luxury cars.

Salameh has been touted as the guardian of Lebanon’s monetary stability and praised for steering the country’s finances after recovering from the 15-year civil war that ended in 1990 and other bouts of unrest. But he has come under intense scrutiny since the onset of the economic crisis in late 2019, with many pundits now questioning his monetary policy.

Salameh is also under investigation in Switzerland, Luxembourg and France for potential money laundering and embezzlement. Local media have reported in recent months that Salameh, his brother and an aide have been involved in illegal businesses including money transfers abroad despite informal capital controls imposed in the country.

About Rodney Fletcher

Check Also

IRS Warns: Hundreds of Crypto Criminal Tax Cases Ahead; Hiring 300 special agents means more to follow | BakerHotelier

Take away food : The 2022 IRS Annual Criminal Investigation Report highlights significant lawsuits and …