Lebanon’s central bank governor said he will file legal action against Bloomberg and one of its journalists over a story it published claiming that the US was considering sanctions against him as part of a wider corruption probe.
“The governor of the bank, Riad Salameh, will present a series of legal actions inside and outside Lebanon against the agency Bloomberg [and its] US correspondent in Beirut,” a statement from the Banque du Liban carried by local media said on Friday.
It also accused the US-based media outlet of “fabricating news, abuse and attempts to distort the reputation of the governor of the Central Bank.”
The Bloomberg article in question claimed that talks to slap Salameh with sanctions were underway between officials in US President Joe Biden’s administration and their European counterparts.
Citing four sources, the article claims officials have discussed freezing the assets of the bank chief, as well as taking measures to curb his activities abroad.
Salameh is said to be included in an investigation by Swiss prosecutors into the alleged embezzlement of public funds, but he denies any wrongdoing.
Washington has also denied the claims in the Bloomberg article. A US State Department spokesperson told Reuters the reports about possible sanctions on Salameh are “untrue.”
Switzerland’s attorney general’s office reportedly asked the Lebanese government for help in January in investigating an unidentified individual over alleged money laundering and embezzlement.
Bloomberg reported that its sources had confirmed prosecutors, including in the UK and France, were looking at shell companies and overseas bank transfers believed to be linked to Salameh. His brother, Raja, was also said to be included in the probe after the pair reportedly benefited from the sale of Eurobonds held by the bank between 2002 and 2016.
Lebanon has been plunged into a financial crisis, partly caused by corruption and made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Beirut Port explosion in August last year. At the beginning of this week the country saw a massive currency crash so that 10,000 Lebanese pounds were at one point worth just $1.
The country’s dire economic situation has sparked nationwide protests all week, with protesters again blocking main roads in some cities on Friday.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has asked the Banque du Liban to investigate how the crash happened.
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