Lebanon central bank staff protest over 'unjust' legal proceedings against Salameh

Banque du Liban chief has been charged with illicit enrichment

Lebanese security forces at an unoccupied house belonging to central bank chief Riad Salameh last Wednesday. AFP
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Lebanon’s central bank closed its doors on Tuesday as employees held a one-day strike to protest against legal proceedings faced by its governor.

Riad Salameh is at the centre of two corruption investigations in Lebanon but has failed to appear at several hearings.

A committee representing Banque du Liban staff said the warning strike was a way for them to appeal against “the unjust situation against the central bank and its employees, and to avoid later escalation”.

Mr Salameh has been charged with illicit enrichment, alongside his brother Raja, and faces investigations in several EU countries.

Security forces raided a home belonging to Mr Salameh last Wednesday after staking it out overnight.

Before that, his brother spent a month in detention and was released on May 22 after paying a record bail of 100 billion Lebanese pounds ($3.7 million).

Raja Salameh's detention had been ordered by judge Ghada Aoun in a case related to the purchase and rental of apartments in Paris.

Lebanon's central bank chief has come under intense scrutiny since the country’s financial collapse began in 2019. It has pushed more than three quarters of the country into poverty.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's banks association, the ABL, affirmed its unity at a board meeting. It reiterated that it was necessary for Lebanon to reach a deal with the IMF, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

The ABL also called on the Lebanese state to shoulder a portion of the losses in the financial sector, estimated to be about $70 billion.

The statement follows criticism by several prominent banks of a recent ABL letter to the IMF in which it criticised a draft deal in April with Lebanon.

Inflation in the country, which faces its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1943, rose to 211 per cent last month from the same period a year earlier.

This is the 23rd consecutive triple-digit increase in the Central Administration of Statistics' Consumer Price Index since July 2020.

Transport costs increased by 515 per cent in May, compared with the same month last year. It was followed by the health segment, which surged by 468 per cent.

Water, electricity, gas and other fuels rose by 445 per cent while food and non-alcoholic beverages were up 364 per cent.

Inflation soared to about 155 per cent in 2021. However, it remains far from its peak of 741 per cent towards the end of 1987 — during the country's civil war, which raged from 1975 to 1990.

Updated: June 28, 2022, 12:11 PM