Salameh denies to prosecutor claims of money transfer

Salameh said he met with General Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat and provided him with all the answers to the questions that he had and which the Swiss public prosecutor had raised

  
Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh meets with the government's social and economic council in Beirut, Lebanon September 27, 2018.

Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh meets with the government's social and economic council in Beirut, Lebanon September 27, 2018.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said Thursday he denied to Lebanese prosecutor all allegations that BDL had transferred hundreds of millions of dollars abroad.

In a brief statement by BDL, Salameh said he met with General Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat and provided him with all the answers to the questions that he had and which the Swiss public prosecutor had raised.

“I assured him that no transfers were made from the accounts of the Banque du Liban or from its budgets. I also assured Oueidat that I am always ready to answer any questions. I also reserved for myself the right to legal prosecution against all those who insist on spreading malicious rumors and insults that affect me personally as well as damage Lebanon's financial reputation,” Salameh said.

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm told The Daily Star earlier this week that she had sent the Swiss file to Lebanon’s prosecution office.

“After the daily Al Akhbar published information this morning -- which I refuse to confirm or refute -- many journalists started calling me to inquire. I refused to issue any statement or declaration, and only answered that I had indeed received a request for judicial assistance from the Swiss judicial authorities, and that I handed it over to the attorney general, in accordance with the law,” the minister explained.

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.

The Al Akhbar newspaper said the Prosecutor's Office received information about bank transfers belonging to the governor, his brother Raja Salameh, and his aide Marianne Howeik, in the amount of $400 million.

Lebanon is grappling with a deep financial crisis that has hammered the currency, spread poverty and prompted a sovereign debt default. The crippled banking system has cut people's access to their dollar accounts since last year.

Salameh, a former Merrill Lynch banker, has led Lebanon's Central Bank since 1993.

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