Lebanon’s Central Bank Chief Appears Before Corruption Hearing

    Lebanon’s Central Bank Chief Appears Before Corruption Hearing
    Last updated Mar 17, 2023
    Image credit: ITN


    • European investigators on Thursday questioned Riad Salameh, the Governor of Lebanon's Central Bank [BDL], probing his personal wealth and allegedly suspicious financial transfers abroad. Salameh has held his post for three decades, making him one of the world's longest-serving central bank governors.
    • The 72-year-old, who claims he is innocent, is being investigated alongside his brother Raja in Lebanon and at least five European countries regarding accusations that he stole hundreds of millions of dollars and laundered some of the proceeds abroad.
    • Salameh was originally supposed to be questioned on Wednesday but refused to attend, arguing that the presence of the European investigators was “in conflict with [Lebanon’s] national sovereignty.”
    • During the session, the European delegation was led by French judge Aude Buresi. Bursei represented France and Luxembourg and did not directly question Salameh —as a local judge, Charbel Bou Samra questioned him instead. No Lebanese or foreign lawyer accompanied Salameh to the hearing.
    • This was the European delegation’s second visit to Beirut following a trip in January — when they questioned nine people, including current and former central bank officials, as well as the heads of several banks in the country.
    • The session came as Lebanon's economic crisis continues to deepen, as the country's currency hit a new low on the parallel market earlier this week, reaching 100K Lebanese Pounds (LBP) to the dollar. Lebanon is also currently without a government or president — which is reserved for a Maronite Christian — due to political infighting.


    Narrative A

    Though Salameh is surely guilty of many things, it is obvious that he is being used as a scapegoat by Lebanon's entrenched political elite. Up until Lebanon's financial collapse in 2019, both Lebanese and European leaders considered Salameh a financial magician, lauding him for his economic policies. Now that the Lebanese system has failed, all the blame has been put on Salameh, when, in reality, it is Lebanon's entire political class that is at fault.

    Narrative B

    Riad Salameh is an American agent who works only for the US embassy in Lebanon. So many facets of Lebanon's current crisis are based on Western meddling, such as sanctions. It is well known that Salameh is protected by the Americans, as they try to blame Hezbollah and the resistance for Lebanon's decline, when, in reality, it is the West that has inflicted this suffering on the Lebanese people.

    Narrative C

    Ultimately, Salameh, though corrupt, is a highly skilled political actor. Though he has often portrayed himself to the West as a victim of Hezbollah and Iran's meddling in the country, in reality, he has played both sides for his own personal gain. Though the Americans have indicated their dissatisfaction with him, most recently by putting sanctions on Hassan Moukalled, over alleged financial ties to Hezbollah, ultimately he is still in the game.

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