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SALAMEH PROBE

Investigators to grill Lebanon central bank audit firms

BDL headquarters in Beirut. (Credit: Joao Sousa/L'Orient Today)

European investigators probing Lebanese central bank chief Riad Salameh's wealth will question officials from two international firms previously tasked with auditing the central bank's accounts, a judicial official said Friday.

Salameh is the target of a series of judicial investigations at home and abroad on suspicion of embezzlement and money laundering, among other allegations, with investigators looking into the fortune he has amassed during three decades in the job.

From next Tuesday, visiting European investigators plan to question officials from the Lebanon offices of Deloitte, Ernst and Young, and a local firm, the judicial official told AFP, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The three firms have been involved in central bank audits during Salameh's term as governor.

The European investigators arrived in Beirut this week on their third trip to Lebanon in connection with the probe.

Salameh's brother Raja, who was expected to be questioned, failed to show up because of illness, his lawyer said.

He is expected to appear next Wednesday.

Salameh's former assistant Marianne Hoayek was questioned on Thursday and Friday "about accounts belonging to her or the Salameh brothers" and funds transfers, the judicial official said.

France, Germany and Luxembourg seized assets worth 120 million euros ($130 million) in March 2022 in a move linked to a French probe into Salameh's personal wealth.

Lebanese authorities have charged Salameh with embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion as part of their own investigation.

The domestic probe was opened following a request for assistance from Switzerland's public prosecutor looking into more than $300 million in fund movements by the Salameh brothers.

Next week, the European investigators also plan to question current finance minister and former central bank official Youssef Khalil, the judicial official said.

Salameh, whose mandate is due to end in July, is part of the Lebanese political class widely blamed for a crushing economic crisis that began in late 2019 and which the World Bank has dubbed one of the worst in recent history.

European investigators questioned Salameh, who denies wrongdoing, in Beirut last month.

He has been summoned for a hearing in France on May 16.



European investigators probing Lebanese central bank chief Riad Salameh's wealth will question officials from two international firms previously tasked with auditing the central bank's accounts, a judicial official said Friday.

Salameh is the target of a series of judicial investigations at home and abroad on suspicion of embezzlement and money...