Lebanese judge issues travel ban for central bank governor

The state-run National News Age infoncy and a lawyer say a Lebanese judge has issued a travel ban for the nation’s central bank governor

BEIRUT — A Lebanese judge Tuesday issued a travel ban for the nation’s central bank governor, state-run National News Age infoncy and a lawyer mentioned. The transfer comes after a corruption lawsuit accused him of embezzlement and dereliction of obligation through the nation’s monetary meltdown, .

The resolution was the primary judicial motion taken by authorities in Lebanon in opposition to Riad Salameh, who’s being investigated in a number of international locations overseas for potential money laundering.

It was not instantly clear if the ban can be applied. Salameh, 71, has been within the post for practically three many years and enjoys backing from most politicians, together with the nation’s prime minister, regardless of the nation’s devastating financial disaster and banking sector collapse.

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The travel ban was issued by Ghada Aoun, an investigating judge for the Mount Lebanon district, based mostly on an investigation right into a case filed by legal professionals of an anti-corruption group generally known as the People Want to Reform the Regime.

Aoun’s resolution got here as the worth of the Lebanese pound tumbled to new lows on Tuesday, reaching 33,500 to the U.S. greenback. The pound has misplaced greater than 90% of its worth because the meltdown started, together with practically 10% of its worth because the starting of the 12 months.

Salameh was as soon as touted because the guardian of Lebanon’s financial stability and praised for steering the nation’s finances via post-war restoration and bouts of unrest. But he has come underneath intense scrutiny because the small nation’s financial meltdown started in late 2019, with many specialists now questioning his financial insurance policies.

Haitham Ezzo, one of many attorneys who filed the lawsuit in opposition to Salameh, mentioned the governor violated his official obligation to guard the nationwide foreign money and the banking sector. He mentioned Salameh can be criminally accountable, saying the swimsuit offers new proof that he abused his place for private achieve.

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“We filed a felony case in opposition to him … and we requested for plenty of issues beginning with a ban on his touring,” Ezzo mentioned. The second request was to disclose the destiny of Lebanon’s enormous gold reserves which are value billions of {dollars}.

Salameh is being investigated in Switzerland, Luxembourg and France for potential money laundering and embezzlement. Local media reported in current months that Salameh, his brother and an aide have been concerned in unlawful businesses, together with money transfers overseas regardless of the casual capital controls imposed at dwelling.

Ezzo mentioned they’ve proof that Salameh has rented an residence in Paris’ Champs Elysee for the central bank at an overvalued value, accusing him of embezzling the distinction.

Salameh, who has repeatedly denied making such transfers, mentioned in November that he requested for an audit of transactions and investments throughout his tenure and the outcomes confirmed no public money has been misused.

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Salameh has mentioned that he was rich earlier than he grew to become central bank governor in 1993.

Lebanon’s financial disaster — rooted in many years of corruption and mismanagement — has been described by the World Bank as one of many worst the world has witnessed because the 1850s.

“How can I belief an individual who mentioned the pound is doing effectively. How can I belief an individual who mentioned the banks usually are not bankrupt however they are surely,” mentioned Ezzo.

Last month, Prime Minister Najib Mikati was requested whether or not he plans to take away Salameh from the post. Mikati responded: “During wars you don’t change officers.”

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Associated Press author Sarah El Deeb contributed reporting.

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