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

Lebanon: Mikati Proposes Inviting Central Bank Governor to Cabinet Meeting

Lebanon's Central Bank governor Riad Salameh - File/Reuters.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati proposed on Wednesday inviting central bank governor Riad Salameh to a forthcoming Cabinet meeting, the information minister said, an apparent show of support after Salameh was charged with illicit enrichment.

Salameh has denied the charge brought against him by a Lebanese judge on Monday. It was the first charge to be brought against the governor, whose wealth is also being probed by authorities in at least five European countries.

Information Minister Ziad al-Makary said Mikati had proposed during Wednesday's Cabinet session to invite Salameh "after lots of discussion about the matter of the relationship with the banks."

According to Reuters, it was an apparent reference to a standoff between Lebanese banks and members of the judiciary who have frozen the assets of seven lenders this month. Banks went on strike earlier this week in protest at the judicial orders.

No date had been set for Salameh to attend a cabinet meeting, Makary said.

Denying the charge against him, Salameh said on Monday he had ordered an audit, which showed public funds were not a source of his wealth.

His tenure has faced increased scrutiny since the financial system imploded in 2019, the most destabilizing crisis since Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war.

Judge Ghada Aoun charged Salameh in absentia.

Last week, Aoun charged his brother Raja Salameh in the same case and ordered him arrested, and he has since been in detention. Raja Salameh’s lawyer has said allegations of illicit enrichment and money laundering against his client were unfounded.

Riad Salameh faces other investigations, including a Swiss inquiry over alleged aggravated money laundering at the central bank involving $300 million in gains by a company owned by Raja Salameh.

Aoun's critics 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. Aoun says she is applying the law.

Riad Salameh has described accusations against him as politically motivated.

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