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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat

Lebanon: Brother of Central Bank Chief Kept in Custody

A view shows the Central Bank building, in Beirut, Lebanon. Reuters

A Lebanese judge decided Thursday to keep the brother of the country’s embattled central bank governor in custody, a week after he was first arrested on corruption allegations, state media reported.

The brothers — Governor Riad Salameh and Raja Salameh — have been charged with illegal enrichment and money laundering over the past few years, during Lebanon’s economic meltdown. Their assets have been frozen under an order from a judge.

A second judge, Nicola Mansour at Mount Lebanon district court, reviewed the case of Raja Salameh on Thursday, a week after his initial arrest and issued a second warrant for him, essentially keeping him in custody, The Associated Press reported.

Riad Salameh, who has not been arrested, has steered Lebanese finances since 1993, through post-war recovery and bouts of unrest. He was once praised as guardian of Lebanon’s financial stability but has drawn increasing scrutiny since the meltdown started in 2019.

Judge Mansour also summoned Riad Salameh for questioning next Thursday, according to National News Agency. The governor did not show up for previous questioning sessions.

When contacted by Reuters, he denied any wrongdoing, saying he had ordered an audit which showed public funds were not a source of his wealth.

Judge Ghada Aoun, also an investigative judge at Mount Lebanon district court who referred the case to Mansour, said that the Salameh brothers and Ukrainian citizen Anna Kosakova had formed three illusive companies in France to buy property there.

Aoun said last week that Riad Salameh had used his brother to buy real estate in France worth nearly $12 million. The lawsuit against the Salameh brothers was initiated by a group of lawyers.

In January, Aoun imposed a travel ban and froze some of the assets of the 71-year-old governor. He is also being investigated in several European nations, including Switzerland and France, for potential money laundering and embezzlement.

Critics of Judge Aoun accuse her of acting in line with the political agenda of President Michel Aoun, who appointed her as a prosecutor and whose Free Patriotic Movement wants Salameh removed from his post. Judge Aoun says she is applying the law.

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