Lebanese prime minister proposes inviting central bank governor Salameh to Cabinet meeting

The move is a show of support after Riad Salameh was charged with illicit enrichment

Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikat proposed on Wednesday inviting central bank governor Riad Salameh to a Cabinet meeting. Reuters
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In a show of support, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Wednesday proposed inviting embattled central bank governor Riad Salameh to a Cabinet meeting.

It followed "lots of discussion about the matter of the relationship with the banks," Information Minister Ziad Al Makary said.

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. Mr Salameh himself is facing charges of embezzlement and corruption – which he denies.

Banks went on strike earlier this week in protest over the judicial orders.

Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh. Reuters

No date had been set for Mr Salameh to attend a cabinet meeting, Reuters reported, citing Mr Makary.

The move would be a show of support after Mr Salameh who was charged with illicit enrichment. Mr 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.

Denying the charge, Mr Salameh said 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 destabilising crisis since Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war.

Judge Ghada Aoun charged Mr Salameh in absentia.

Last week, judge Aoun charged Riad's brother, Raja Salameh, in the same case and ordered his arrest. He has since been detained.

Mr Raja Salameh’s lawyer has said allegations of illicit enrichment and money laundering against his client were unfounded.

Mr 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 his brother.

Judge 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 Mr Riad Salameh removed from his post.

Judge Aoun says she is applying the law.

Mr Riad Salameh has described accusations against him as politically motivated.

Updated: March 24, 2022, 10:43 AM
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