Lebanon central bank head says figures in some media about Swiss case 'inflated'

Swiss investigators said last week they were looking into the allegations linked to Lebanon's central bank

  
Lebanon central bank is seen closed, after Lebanon declared a medical state of emergency as part of the preventive measures against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beirut, Lebanon March 17, 2020. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Lebanon central bank is seen closed, after Lebanon declared a medical state of emergency as part of the preventive measures against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beirut, Lebanon March 17, 2020. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT- Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Monday that figures circulating in some news outlets and on social media relating to an inquiry by the Swiss authorities into allegations of money laundering and embezzlement were inflated.

Swiss investigators said last week they were looking into the allegations linked to Lebanon's central bank. 

The Swiss attorney general's office has not said whether Salameh is a suspect or not and has not given any further details about the case.

A source familiar with the case has told Reuters the Swiss asked Lebanese authorities via the embassy to ask Salameh, his brother and assistant "specific questions" about transfers abroad in recent years that amount to nearly $350 million.

"All the news and figures traded in some media outlets and on social media are very inflated and are far from reality," a statement by Salameh on Monday said.

Salameh, who has led the central bank since 1993, was questioned by Lebanon's prosecutor on Thursday. 

His role came under scrutiny after the country's financial system collapsed in an unprecedented crisis in 2019 that prompted a crash in the Lebanese pound and a sovereign default.

A Lebanese government official told Reuters last week that Swiss authorities were investigating money transfers by Salameh and also looking into his brother and assistant. Salameh has said allegations about such transfers were untrue.

On Monday, Salameh said the logic of "lying and lying so that something sticks to people's mind," would not succeed.

"All the facts are documented," he said.

(Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Hugh Lawson) ((Maha.Dahan@thomsonreuters.com; + 9712 4082101; Reuters Messaging: maha.dahan.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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