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European judges are investigating the Lebanese Minister of Finance in the case of Riad Salameh


The official told AFP, on condition of anonymity, that Al-Khalil answered more than 100 questions, assuming he held the position of director of financial operations at the Banque du Liban before moving to the Ministry of Finance, and confirmed that “all the operations that took place in the central bank during his tenure were legal.”

On Friday, European judges questioned Lebanese Finance Minister Youssef Al-Khalil for three hours as part of an investigation into the properties of Banque du Liban Governor Riad Salameh, a judicial source told AFP.

The source added that the judges, who returned to Beirut two weeks ago as part of the investigation, “done their mission” after his interrogation.

Suspicions of embezzlement and money laundering

The wealth of Salama, who is 72 years old, one of the longest-serving rulers of central banks in the world, has been the focus of investigations two years ago in Lebanon and abroad, as he is pursued by several suspicions, including embezzlement, money laundering, transferring them to accounts abroad and “illicit enrichment.”

During two hearings last March before European investigators, Riad Salameh denied that he had transferred any money from the Banque du Liban to his personal accounts inside and outside the country, criticizing what he described as “bad faith and a thirst for prosecution” against him from several sides.

Investigators from France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg also questioned Raja Salameh’s brother for six hours Thursday about suspicious transfers worth more than $300 million made by the two brothers.

And after he declined last month to appear before the judges for “medical reasons,” Raja Salameh answered, according to the judicial source, “about 140 questions related to his personal accounts and the accounts of the Fawry company.”

The European investigations focus on the relationship between the Banque du Liban and the “Fore Associates” company, which is registered in the Virgin Islands and has an office in Beirut, and its economic beneficiary, Raja Salameh.

It is believed that the company established in 2001 by the “Mossack Fonseca” office, which was involved in the Panama Papers scandals, played the role of mediator to purchase treasury bonds and Eurobonds from the Banque du Liban by receiving a subscription commission, which was transferred to Raja Salameh’s accounts abroad, which Riad Salameh denies.

Freezing 120 million euros of Lebanese assets

France, Germany and Luxembourg froze 120 million euros of Lebanese assets a year ago, following an investigation targeting Salameh and four of his close associates, including his brother, on charges of money laundering and “embezzlement of public funds in Lebanon amounting to more than 330 million dollars and 5 million euros, respectively, between 2002 and 2021.” .

Al-Khalil denied knowing “how to buy Eurobonds, or having information about Fawry accounts,” according to the source.

The investigators also listened to Nada Makhlouf, an employee of Deloitte, who has audited the accounts of the Banque du Liban since 1994.

Salameh was the architect of financial policies during the recovery phase of the Lebanese economy after the civil war (1975-1990).

However, with the emergence of signs of economic collapse and the launch of unprecedented popular demonstrations in October 2019 against the political class accused of corruption and of prevailing the logic of deals in running the country, analysts and observers accused political leaders and officials, including Salameh, of transferring huge sums of money from their accounts abroad.

The French judiciary summoned Riad Salameh to appear before him on May 16 to formally charge him.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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