Lebanon banking chief summoned in European probe: judicial source

A Lebanese judge has asked central bank chief Riad Salameh to appear before visiting European investigators, a judicial official said Monday, part of a multinational probe into his personal wealth.

Salameh "has been summoned to appear at 10:00 am (0800 GMT) on Wednesday" before investigators from France, Luxembourg and Belgium, the Lebanese judicial official told AFP on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

The embattled central bank chief faces embezzlement accusations in sperate investigations in Lebanon and abroad, looking into the fortune he has amassed in a country mired in financial crisis.

He denies all accusations against him and has rarely appeared before the judiciary, despite numerous complaints and summonses.

Salameh had been summoned for questioning on Wednesday in the domestic case, but that session has been postponed to make way for the European investigators, according to the judicial official.

If he shows up, it would be the first time Salameh, 72, appears before European investigators probing suspected financial misconduct, including possible money laundering and embezzlement.

For procedural reasons, Lebanese judge Charbel Abu Samra would question Salameh in the presence of the European investigators, the official said.

France, Germany and Luxembourg in March last year seized assets worth 120 million euros ($130 million) in a move linked to a French probe into Salameh's personal wealth.

Lebanese authorities last month charged the three-decade central bank chief, who remains in his post, with embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion.

In January, the European investigators interviewed banking officials in Beirut about the transfer of funds to countries where Salameh has significant assets.

They also examined the central bank's ties to Forry Associates Ltd, a British Virgin Islands-registered company that listed Salameh's brother as its beneficiary.

Forry is suspected of having brokered Lebanese treasury bonds and Eurobonds at a commission, which was then allegedly transferred to his bank accounts abroad.

Swiss media reported last month that 12 banks in the European country had received a large part of the money Salameh is alleged to have embezzled -- estimated at up to $500 million.

Head of the central bank since 1993, Salameh is part of the Lebanese political class widely blamed for a crushing economic crisis in Lebanon that began in late 2019.