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Lebanon’s Prime Minister designate, Najib Mikati, has called for freezing the corruption and embezzlement investigations on Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh until a replacement can be appointed.
Mikati made his suggestion on 20 July, one day after Lebanese security forces carried out their latest raid of the central bank’s Beirut headquarters in search of Salameh.
The PM-designate called this move “inappropriate” and said it risks causing an economic shock.
“What is required is that this file be dealt with via prior political agreement on a new governor of the Banque du Liban, and that the case take its appropriate legal course after that,” Mikati said via a statement.
The raid was carried out due to a standing subpoena order on Salameh in relation to an ongoing investigation against him and several top banks for their role in the economic collapse of 2019.
The judge presiding over the case, Ghada Aoun, charged Salameh with illicit enrichment back in March.
Salameh has thus far been able to successfully evade every arrest attempt by authorities. He also previously stated that an “audit” carried out last year “clears him of all corruption and embezzlement charges.”
However, according to documents obtained by Reuters, the audit in question constituted a financial review based only on information provided by Salameh.
The Central Bank governor is also currently under investigation for corruption and money laundering in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland.
Salameh – who has led the Central Bank for 30 years – has enjoyed impunity in large part thanks to the direct intervention of US ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea.
Salameh and his brother have gone as far as to sue the Lebanese state over what they allege are “grave mistakes” made during the investigation, including bias and the violation of banking secrecy laws.
An investigation into the activities of Riad Salameh by The Cradle identified the financial policies that Salameh employed at the behest of the US to deliberately cause an economic downturn in Lebanon in order to blame it on Hezbollah and its allies.
“Since 1997 to date, Salameh has personally taken all the measures and made all the decisions that led to Lebanon’s economic collapse. These include fixing the exchange rate, borrowing US dollars from the Banque du Liban, and luring Lebanese banks to bring in deposits from correspondent banks abroad and place them in the Banque du Liban with high interest rates.”
Lebanon’s current economic crisis has resulted in a steep reduction of purchasing power for the average citizen after massive hyperinflation hit the national currency. One of the main tasks of the central bank is to keep the national currency stable.