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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Beirut - Youssef Diab

French Judiciary Summons Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor for Interrogation in Paris

Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Central Bank in Beirut, Lebanon October 24, 2017.REUTERS/Jamal Saidi/File Photo

The Lebanese judiciary has received a French judicial writ summoning Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh to appear before French judge Aude Buresi in Paris, an informed judicial source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The source said the French questioning is separate from the investigations that Paris is running in Beirut with other European legal teams.

“Buresi set Salameh’s hearing at 9:30 a.m. on May 16, and allowed him to be accompanied by a lawyer,” the source noted, adding that the hearing session will revolve around financial accounts and real estate that Salameh owns in France.

Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Judge Ghada Aoun had previously issued a travel ban against Salameh.

However, the judicial source said “Aoun’s decision would not constitute an obstacle to his departure to Paris, and that the Lebanese judge could cancel her decision not to obstruct the French investigation.

“Salameh has the option not to attend the French hearing,” the source explained. However, he stressed that the Governor’s failure to show up at the court may entail legal measures against him.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s judiciary has received letters from judicial authorities in Belgian and Luxembourg informing Beirut that judicial delegations will join a French judicial team headed by Buresi as part of the European investigations with Salameh.

Informed sources in the Palace of Justice in Beirut said it expects to receive a similar request from Germany in the coming days.

Salameh will face a third round of European investigations starting next April 25. The round is expected to be intense, as the European legal team will question prominent Lebanese figures, including a current minister.

In January, the European investigators interviewed banking officials in Beirut about the transfer of funds to countries where Salameh has significant assets.

Later in March, a European legal team conducted in Beirut two days of questioning of the Governor in a money-laundering probe.

At the third round of investigation this month, the European legal teams are expected to question Raja Salameh, the governor's brother, and Marianne Hoayek, his assistant, in addition to four other persons, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Refusing to name the four Lebanese figures, the sources said they include “two major bank directors, a former official in the Banque du Liban, and a minister in the current government who will be questioned for the first time as witnesses.”

The sources also said that the Belgian ambassador to Lebanon visited Beirut First Investigative, Judge Charbel Abu Samra, who supervises and directs the European interrogation sessions from April 25 to May 6, and discussed with him facilitating the task of the Belgian judicial team participating in the European delegation.

At the Lebanese level, Judge Charbel Abu Samra postponed looking into the State Prosecution's lawsuit against Salameh, his brother Raja Salameh, and his assistant Marianne Hoayek, until May 18.

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