Lebanon: central bank governor Riad Salameh to step down this year

Banque Du Liban chief faces numerous investigations over accusations of corruption

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Lebanon’s embattled central bank governor Riad Salameh, who has faced multiple accusations of plundering state coffers, has said he is ready to step down from his 30-year stint in the role when his fifth term ends this year.

One of Lebanon’s most controversial figures, Mr Salameh was at one point heralded for keeping the country’s banking sector afloat — but is now one of the key figures blamed for Lebanon’s economic collapse that first became apparent in 2019, one of the worst in modern history.

He also is facing several European and Lebanese investigations over alleged corruption and illicit enrichment.

Among the accusations are that he embezzled $330 million from the central bank through a contract he signed with Forry Associates, a financial services company run by his brother, Raja.

“For me, the decision is that at the end of my term, I will turn a page in my life and leave the central bank,” Riad Salameh said in an interview with Al Sharq TV.

He also rejected any links to Forry Associates, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

“Not a single dollar of BDL [Banque Du Liban] funds has been paid to Forry Associated Ltd. I have no connection with that company,” Mr Salameh said.

“Some have exploited my brother's position in this company to target me,” he said, adding that “the cases launched against me have no real foundation”.

Last month, investigators from Germany, Luxembourg and France travelled to Lebanon as part of their probe into the alleged embezzlement related to Forry.

They questioned around a dozen witnesses, including senior officials at the BDL and prominent bankers.

According to reports, the investigators will return to Lebanon at the beginning of March for a second round of questioning, which will include the Salameh brothers.

The economic crisis has been blamed on decades of corruption and mismanagement in Lebanon’s elite.

Accusations have been levelled at Mr Salameh, the central bank and the wider banking sector.

The local currency has lost more than 95 per cent of its value, and inflation has soared but without wages being able to keep up.

Much of the population is now in poverty, with widespread shortages of basic essentials, including clean water, electricity and medicines.

Updated: February 10, 2023, 6:04 PM