BEIRUT (AP) – The governor of Lebanon’s central bank said on Wednesday that he had requested an audit of transactions and investments during his tenure and the results showed that no public money had been embezzled.
Riad Salameh, 70, once hailed as the guardian of Lebanon’s financial stability, has come under intense scrutiny since the small country’s economic crisis began two years ago.
He is under investigation in Switzerland and France for money laundering and embezzlement. Local media have reported in recent months that Salameh, his brother and an aide have been involved in illegal ventures, including money transfers abroad despite capital controls imposed in the country.
Salameh had repeatedly denied making such transfers.
Salameh said in a statement on Wednesday that he was a wealthy investment banker before becoming the head of the central bank in 1993. Since then he has invested and his money and fortune have grown.
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The economic crisis rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement is described as one of the worst the world has seen in over a century.
In his statement on Wednesday, Salameh said the audit result revealed that “not a single penny of public money” was used to pay Forry Associates Ltd, which is owned by his brother, Raja.
Salameh said some of his opponents, whom he did not name, “waged a systematic campaign to deceive the public by spreading false news that public money was being used.”
Salameh said the source of his wealth was known, adding that he worked for almost 20 years before becoming governor of the central bank as an investment banker for Merrill Lynch.
He added that his last salary at Merrill Lynch was $ 2 million a year and that when he left the company had a fortune of $ 23 million, as well as property he inherited. Salameh said that over the past 28 years, he has “wisely invested” his wealth and his fortune has increased.
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