| 29 November 2023, Wednesday |

France summons brother, assistant of Lebanon central bank boss in fraud probe

France’s judiciary has summoned the brother and an aide of the governor of Lebanon’s central bank as it pursues its investigation into allegations of embezzlement and money-laundering by the bank director, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

Riad Salameh, the head of the central bank, his brother Raja Salameh, and his aide Marianne Hoayek are under investigation in Lebanon, France, and other nations for allegedly embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars.

The brothers have denied wrongdoing. Lawyers for Raja and for Hoayek did not respond to separate requests for comment.

France has set a hearing in Paris for his brother Raja on May 31 and for Hoayek on June 13, a source close to the matter told Reuters. A Lebanese judicial source confirmed to Reuters that Lebanon’s judiciary had received the summons and was working to deliver them.

France last week issued an arrest warrant for Salameh, 72, after he failed to attend his own hearing in Paris. Interpol subsequently issued a red notice.

Lebanon’s caretaker justice minister Henry Khoury told local broadcaster Al-Jadeed that he feared more European countries may follow suit and file their own charges against Salameh, which could have consequences on the country’s financial situation – already in freefall since 2019.

“The governor must realize this and resign on his own,” Khoury said, adding his voice to those of the caretaker deputy premier and interior minister who last week said Salameh should step down.

Lebanon’s cabinet met on Monday afternoon to discuss how the charges against Salameh might affect the Lebanese state and what legal options they may have to remove him, two government sources told Reuters.

But the meeting produced no concrete results, according to two separate government sources. A statement issued after the meeting said the cabinet would support whatever action the judiciary decided on.

The Salameh brothers and Hoayek have already been charged in two separate cases in Lebanon related to embezzlement and other financial crimes, but none of them are in custody.