German investigators arrive in Lebanon for bank governor corruption case

Judicial officials from France and Luxembourg will visit on January 16 as part of European delegation

Riad Salameh has been the governor of Lebanon's central bank since 1993. AP
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German investigators from a European judicial delegation have arrived in Beirut as part of a corruption case involving central bank governor Riad Salameh, Lebanon's Justice Minister has said.

Henry Khoury said officials from France and Luxembourg would arrive on January 16, with all investigators scheduled to leave the country on January 20.

“It is no secret that Lebanon has received judicial co-operation requests from Germany, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland, over suspected financial crimes,” he said.

The arrival of investigators from Europe has drawn criticism, with some Lebanese considering it to be a breach of the country's sovereignty.

Mr Khoury said any international judicial co-operation that took place in compliance with the country's laws did not "constitute an infringement on the sovereignty of the Lebanese judiciary".

Lebanon ratified in 2009 the UN Convention against Corruption, which regulates international co-operation in such matters.

“We have responded to some of these requests and handed over to France, Switzerland and Germany some of the required evidence, interrogation reports and testimonies that were made during the initial investigations at the State Prosecution of the Court of Cassation,” Mr Khoury said, without giving details.

Mr Salameh is being investigated over his financial dealings in at least five European countries. He denies accusations of corruption.

He and his associates have been accused of embezzling more than $330 million from the central bank with the help of Mr Salameh's brother Raja through a company registered in the Virgin Islands.

The European investigators want talks with a dozen people, including the Salameh brothers and the heads of major commercial banks in Lebanon.

The country is embroiled in an economic crisis that began in 2019 and which has been blamed on decades of corruption and financial mismanagement by the ruling elite.

Mr Salameh has been governor of the central bank since 1993 and is regarded by many as a key figure in the crisis.

Updated: January 12, 2023, 6:22 AM