(Photo credit: Financial Times)
According to documents obtained by Reuters, the financial review of Lebanon’s Central Bank carried out last year was based only on information provided by the bank’s governor, Riad Salameh, and does not “constitute an audit,” the news agency reported.
Salameh has previously stated that the financial review in question, which he described as an audit, clears him of all corruption and embezzlement charges.
In a letter from 9 September last year written by BDO, Semaan, Gholam and Co, the firm which carried out the review, the auditing company broke down its terms to Salameh’s lawyer, Marwan Issa Khoury.
“The procedures that we will perform will not constitute an audit or review … Accordingly, we do not express an opinion or assurance,” the letter reads.
Earlier this month, Khoury told media that Salameh’s description of the review was accurate, and that it constitutes a financial audit that clears his client of the charges against him.
“An audit of transactions and investments were indeed conducted and the International Standard applied as well as the procedures followed were entirely disclosed. There is no way anybody can argue about this,” Khoury said. “The conclusions are clear and based on documentary evidence.”
A spokesperson for the country’s newly re-elected Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who has previously threatened to resign if Salameh is dismissed from his position, has refused to comment on the financial review, as has the Central Bank itself.
According to Lebanese financial expert, Mike Azar, Salameh’s claim that the review constitutes an audit of the Central Bank’s funds is “misleading,” and “undermines the reputation and credibility” of the bank and the country’s financial sector.
Salameh, who headed the Central Bank for three decades, has been directly accused of money laundering and embezzlement by a number of Lebanese officials, including Lebanese President Michel Aoun, but has denied all allegations against him.
The Central Bank governor is also currently under investigation for corruption and money laundering in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland.