Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh on Thursday attended a hearing into accusations of embezzling public money the Justice Palace, a day after he refused to show up before a European legal team.
It is the first time Salameh, who has run the bank for six terms spanning 30 years, is appearing before French and German judicial officials, after a previous session on Wednesday was delayed on procedural grounds when Salameh’s lawyer objected to their presence.
The video below shows the moment when Salameh arrived at the Justice Palace in Beirut.
The European delegation is investigating the laundering of some $330 million. The questioning was expected to last until Friday, the judicial officials said.
On Wednesday, French and German investigators, in Beirut this week to pursue their own probe, had been told they could attend a Lebanese judge’s hearing and had submitted questions to be asked to Salameh by the presiding judge.
But Salameh’s lawyer arrived at court without him and objected to their presence, a senior judicial source and a second source with knowledge of the developments told Reuters.
Also on Wednesday, the Lebanese state, represented by the justice ministry’s cases authority, filed new charges against the Salameh brothers and an assistant and demanded their assets to be frozen.
It is the European delegation’s second visit to Beirut after a trip in January, when they questioned nine people, including current and former central bank officials, as well as the heads of several banks across country.
LBP Reaches New Record Low
Meanwhile on Thursday, national currency reached a new all-time low. The Lebanese Lira was trading at 104,000 to one US dollar on the parallel market, according to dealers.
A Lebanese banknote of 100,000 Lira.
In October 2019 it was worth 66 USD. It’s now worth just 1 USD! The plight of the once kind, proud, and hospitable people of Lebanon is beyond miserable. But what is even worse is that there’s no light at the end of th…https://t.co/FWbV0XL00K
— Jim Zaiter (@jimzaiter) March 15, 2023
The historic low reflected on oil prices, with the gallon of gasoline surpassing 1,900,000 LBP, the gallon of diesel nearing 1,800,000 LBP and the gas canister exceeding 1,270,000 LBP.
The local currency’s market value was at about 60,000 to the dollar in late January. It has now lost more than 98 per cent of its value. Now, much of Lebanon has been plunged into poverty with severe shortages in basic essentials.
The economic crisis, described as one of the worst in modern history by the World Bank, has been blamed on decades worth of corruption and financial mismanagement by Lebanon’s ruling classes — including its banking sector.
Source: Lebanese media