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French prosecutor's office investigating Banque du Liban governor over alleged money laundering

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Banque du Liban chief Riad Salameh has been in post since 1993
Banque du Liban chief Riad Salameh has been in post since 1993   -   Copyright  Hussein Malla/AP
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The French national financial prosecutor’s office has confirmed an early investigation is under way into potential money laundering by the governor of Lebanon’s central bank.

The Parquet National Financier said on Monday that it had opened the investigation into Riad Salameh, the current head of the Banque du Liban, in late May.

Among the potential charges are money laundering and association with an organised criminal group. The prosecutor's office gave no further details.

Salameh, 70, has run the bank since 1993 and for years was widely regarded as a symbol of financial stability in Lebanon.

But in 2019 a nexus of political and socio-economic factors plunged the country into its worst liquidity crisis in its recent, tumultuous history.

The Lebanese pound has since lost more than 90 per cent of its value on the black market while the Lebanese economy shrank by 20 per cent in 2020 alone, according to the World Bank.

In January Switzerland's attorney general also confirmed his country launched a separate probe into possible money laundering and embezzlement at the Banque du Liban, whose financial engineering strategies since the late 2000s have drawn the ire of the International Monetary Fund.

Protests have repeatedly been held outside Salameh's office in Beirut since 2019. Salameh meanwhile has defended his record over the past three decades, claiming he is being targeted as a scapegoat for the country's financial crisis.