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The interim governor of Lebanon’s central bank is freezing assets of former chief and close associates

BEIRUT (AP) — The interim governor of Lebanon’s central bank on Monday froze the accounts of the bank’s embattled former chief and close relatives and associates, days after the United States, United Kingdom and Canada imposed sanctions on them.

Wassim Mansouri’s decision was made public after a meeting of the central bank’s Special Commission of Inquiry. The committee is charged with combating money laundering and terrorist financing. It named former governor Riad Salameh, his son Nady, brother Raja, close associate Marianne Hoayek and former partner Anna Kosakova.

Mansouri ordered all accounts in Lebanese banks and financial institutions of the five persons to be frozen. It also lifts banking secrecy from the individuals at the request of judicial authorities.

Riad Salameh’s mobile phone was off when The Associated Press reached out for comment.

Salameh, 73, ended his 30-year term in office on July 31 amid a cloud of scrutiny and blame for his country’s historic economic crisis.

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France, Germany and Luxembourg are investigating Salameh and close associates for alleged financial crimes, including illicit enrichment and $330 million laundering. Paris and Berlin issued Interpol notices on Salameh in May, even though Lebanon does not extradite its citizens abroad.

The US Treasury Department said last week that the US has coordinated sanctions with the UK and Canada and assets related to Salameh will be frozen.

Salameh has repeatedly denied allegations of corruption, embezzlement and illicit enrichment. He insists his wealth comes from inherited properties, investments, and his previous job as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch.

Salameh is also under investigation in Lebanon. The Lebanese judiciary confiscated his passports and imposed a travel ban shortly after receiving the Interpol reports.

Salameh has criticized the European investigation, saying it was part of a media and political campaign to scapegoat him.

Salameh, once hailed as the custodian of Lebanon’s financial stability, is one of the officials held most responsible for the policies that led to the country’s economic crisis, which sent the value of the Lebanese pound down by about 90%. decimated against the US dollar and led to triple-digit inflation.

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A forensic audit of Lebanon’s central bank by a New York-based firm last week revealed years of misconduct by Salameh and $111 million in “illegitimate commissions.”

A copy of the 331-page document from Alvarez & Marsal was viewed Friday by The Associated Press. The audit was one of the main demands of the international community and the International Monetary Fund, which over the years has increasingly lost confidence in crisis-hit Lebanon.

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