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Lebanon judge to lift travel ban on chief for probe

Lebanon judge to lift travel ban on central bank chief for probe
2 min read
Salameh's travel ban will be lifted so he can travel to France for a hearing as part of his anti-corruption probe.
Salameh is part of a political class widely blamed for Lebanon's unprecedented economic crisis [Getty]

A Lebanese judge will lift a travel ban imposed on the country's embattled central bank chief, who has been summoned for a hearing in Paris next month, two judicial officials said Wednesday.

Riad Salameh is part of a political class widely blamed for Lebanon's unprecedented economic crisis that the World Bank says is of a scale usually associated with wars.

He is the target of a series of judicial investigations both at home and abroad on suspicion of fraud, money laundering and illicit enrichment, among other allegations -- including in France where he has been summoned for a hearing on May 16.

"Judge Ghada Aoun will lift the travel ban on Riad Salameh tomorrow," the first judicial official told AFP, requesting anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Aoun slapped Salameh with the ban in January last year after an activist group filed a lawsuit against the central bank chief, alleging financial misconduct.

A second judicial official, also requesting anonymity, confirmed the restrictions would be lifted on Thursday.

"He will have no excuse not to go to France" for the hearing, the second official added.

France, Germany and Luxembourg in March last year seized assets worth 120 million euros ($130 million) in a move linked to a probe by French investigators into 72-year-old Salameh's personal wealth.

Salameh, who denies wrongdoing, is also being investigated by Lebanese authorities on suspicion of financial misconduct including possible embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion.

Lebanon opened its own probe into Salameh's wealth in 2021, after the office of Switzerland's top prosecutor requested assistance with an investigation into more than $300 million allegedly embezzled out of the central bank with the help of his brother Raja.

Both Salameh brothers have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

A source close to the French investigation said Raja, Salameh's former assistant Marianne Hoayek and his son Nady Salameh were mentioned as potential accomplices but have not been charged with a crime.

A French judge is also investigating Marwan Kheireddine, head of Al-Mawarid Bank, which is suspected of having bypassed proper checks on Salameh's accounts, the source said.

Kheireddine is being probed for potential financial crimes including criminal association with the aim of embezzling public funds, aggravated breach of trust and corrupting a civil servant, according to the source.