FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh speaks during an interview for Reuters Next conference, in Beirut, Lebanon November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
March 31, 2022
By Timour Azhari
BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanese central bank chief Riad Salameh on Thursday did not attend a judicial hearing he was summoned to last week after being charged with corruption, and the judge scheduled a new hearing for June, the National News Agency (NNA) reported.
Salameh has previously denied the charge of illicit enrichment brought against him on March 21. A lawyer for Salameh presented a preliminary defence of his client against the charges at Thursday’s hearing, the NNA reported.
Separately, a judicial source said Investigative Judge Nicolas Mansour set bail of 500 billion Lebanese pounds – roughly $20 million – for Salameh’s younger brother Raja, who has been detained since March 17 on charges of helping his brother launder the proceeds of illicit enrichment.
A lawyer for Raja Salameh previously has said the charge against his client was unfounded. On Thursday, one of Raja Salameh’s lawyers said he had appealed against the “amount of the bail.”
Prosecutor Ghada Aoun, who charged the Salameh brothers, appealed against Mansour’s decision to allow Raja Salameh to be released on bail, a senior judicial source said, adding that Raja Salameh remained in custody.
Lawyer Nizar Saghieh of watchdog NGO Legal Agenda told Reuters that Riad Salameh had the legal right to skip Thursday’s session and have his lawyer present a defence.
Riad Salameh did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
The governor’s wealth is also being investigated in at least five European countries, sparked by a Swiss probe into alleged embezzlement of $330 million at the central bank.
Five European countries, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco and Belgium on Monday froze 120 million euros in assets that German prosecutors said was tied to the embezzlement probe.
The 71-year-old has previously attributed his wealth to investments he made while a banker at Merrill Lynch before he became governor in 1993. Salameh’s tenure has faced increased scrutiny since Lebanon’s 2019 financial implosion.
(Reporting by Enas Alashray and Timour Azhari; editing by Tom Perry, Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean)