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Swiss probing corruption linked to Lebanon central bank

The meltdown has crashed the currency, prompted a sovereign default and doomed at least half the population to poverty, prompting protests. Keystone / Wael Hamzeh

The Swiss attorney general’s office has requested legal assistance from Lebanon in the context of a probe into “aggravated money laundering” and possible embezzlement tied to the Lebanese central bank, Reuters reports from Beirut.

The probe is looking at money transfers by Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, as well as his brother and assistant. “Both the prime minister and the president are in the loop,” a Lebanese government official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Salameh has denied any wrongdoing. The Swiss attorney general’s office confirmed it had requested legal assistance from Lebanon in the context of the probe. But in responding to questions from Reuters, it did not say whether Salameh was a suspect.

The news agency quoted an informed source as saying the Swiss asked Lebanese authorities via the embassy to ask Salameh, his brother and assistant “specific questions” about transfers abroad made in recent years that amount to nearly $350 million.

Lebanon’s crippled banking system is at the heart of a financial crisis that erupted in late 2019. Banks have since blocked most transfers abroad and cut access to deposits as dollars grew scarce.

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