Swiss authorities ask Lebanon to cooperate on central bank probe
The Swiss attorney general's office said it had requested legal assistance from Lebanon in the context of a probe into "aggravated money laundering"
BEIRUT: Swiss authorities have opened an investigation into money transfers by Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salame, a Lebanese government official told Reuters on Tuesday.
Salame denied any wrongdoing.
“Both the prime minister and the president are in the loop” on the inquiry which is also looking into Salameh’s brother and assistant, said the government official, who asked to remain anonymous.
The Swiss attorney general’s office said it had requested legal assistance from Lebanon in the context of a probe into “aggravated money laundering” and possible embezzlement tied to the Lebanese central bank.
But in responding to questions from Reuters, it did not say whether Salameh was a suspect and declined further comment.
Lebanon’s crippled banking system is at the heart of a financial crisis that erupted in late 2019. Banks have since blocked most transfers abroad and cut access to dollar deposits.
The meltdown has crashed the currency, prompted a sovereign default and doomed at least half the population to poverty.
In response to Reuters questions about local media reports of a European inquiry, Lebanese Justice Minister Marie Claude Najm said she had received a request for cooperation from Swiss judicial authorities and submitted it to the public prosecutor. She did not elaborate.
A statement by Salameh dismissed any allegations about transfers by him, his brother or assistant as “fabrications”. He threatened to sue anyone who spreads them with harmful intent.
A former Merrill Lynch banker, Salameh has led Lebanon’s central bank, Banque du Liban, since 1993. The collapse of Lebanon’s financial system shook his reputation as a pillar of stability, as foreign donors demanded a central bank audit and Salameh turned into a focus of anger for protesters last year.