Lebanon gets German query on central bank governor finances

BEIRUT, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Lebanon has received a letter from Germany asking for information relating to the finances of Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Lebanese Justice Minister Henry Khoury confirmed to Reuters that he had received two German letters and had handed them to the public prosecutor, without saying what was in them.

Germany would be the fourth European country to seek information on Salameh's finances from Beirut.

The person, who declined to be named, also offered no further detail.Salameh did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

A spokesperson for Germany's justice ministry declined to comment, and the German embassy in Beirut referred Reuters to the German justice ministry.

Lebanese judicial sources told Reuters last week that French and Luxembourg authorities had asked for information relating to bank accounts and assets belonging to Salameh, Lebanon's central bank governor for nearly three decades. read more

Salameh has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The Swiss attorney general's office said last year it had requested legal assistance from Lebanon in the context of a investigation into "aggravated money laundering" and possible embezzlement of more than $300 million under Salameh at the central bank.

Lebanese judicial authorities have also opened an inquiry into Salameh.

Responding to a request for comment last week about the query from Luxembourg, Salameh told Reuters this was a "normal procedure" not a "legal suit". "If they had filed a legal suit they don't need help in the investigation," he said.

Salameh's role at the central bank has come under close scrutiny since Lebanon's economic meltdown in 2019, which has seen the value of the currency collapse and swathes of the population pushed into poverty.

He still enjoys significant political backing in Lebanon.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati said in December Salameh should remain in position for now. "One does not change their officers during a war," Mikati said,referring tothe financial crisis.

Reporting by Timour Azhari; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Mark Heinrich

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