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Lebanon actor questioned as witness in central bank chief case

Stephanie Saliba arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday after taking part in a film festival in the Saudi city of Jeddah and was detained after previously failing to appear for questioning, a judicial source said. ©AFP

Beirut (AFP) - Lebanese authorities on Friday briefly detained a well-known actor for questioning as a witness in a corruption probe involving the country's central bank governor, a judicial source and her agent told AFP.

Actor Stephanie Saliba was detained after failing to appear for previous summons in the case and was subsequently "questioned as a witness" in the investigation into money laundering and illicit enrichment, the source said.

Long-serving central bank chief Riad Salameh, 72, is among top officials widely blamed for Lebanon's unprecedented economic crisis, dubbed by the World Bank as one of the worst in recent world history.

In June, a Lebanese prosecutor probing Salameh on suspicion of financial misconduct requested charges be issued against him based on preliminary investigation findings, a court official said at the time.

Local media have claimed Saliba was close to Salameh and that he showered her with expensive gifts.

She was questioned Friday "to know the type of gifts she received from him", the judicial source said, stressing the actor "is not a defendant and is not accused of money laundering".

"The gifts she received from Salameh, whether it was a house or jewellery, do not amount to money laundering."

Saliba's agent, Eliane Al Hajj, confirmed to AFP that she had been released after questioning.

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

Both Salameh brothers have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The central bank chief has remained at the helm despite Lebanese courts slapping him with a travel ban and investigating him in connection with several other cases.

He also faces lawsuits in European countries, including France and Britain, on charges of financial misconduct.

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