Middle East

Lebanon's former PM Diab says he gave up shares in company mentioned in 'Pandora Papers'

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Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab is pictured at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon, August 10, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

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BEIRUT, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Lebanon's former prime minister Hassan Diab said on Monday he had given up shares in a company he was linked to in a leak of financial documents, and denied wrongdoing.

A statement by his office said he had taken part in founding the company in 2015 and owned 17 shares, but that the firm had no activity since then and he had since resigned his management role and sold his stake.

A Lebanese news organisation, Daraj, was one of a number of international media outlets that reported the "Pandora Papers", a set of leaked documents purported to reveal offshore transactions involving global political and business figures.

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Reuters has not verified the reports or the documents. The use of offshore companies is not illegal and not evidence of wrongdoing on its own, but the news organisations that published the trove said such arrangements could be intended to hide transactions from tax collectors or other authorities.

Daraj reported that top political figures in Lebanon, including Prime Minister Najib Mikati, had embraced offshore havens.

"Is founding a company against the law?" Diab said, adding that he reserved the right to sue anyone who tries to defame him.

Lebanon faces an economic meltdown that has seen three quarters of its population propelled into poverty and its local currency drop by 90% over the past two years.

Lebanese have been frozen out of their dollar deposits since 2019 and banned from transferring money abroad on the back of the crisis.

Daraj said Lebanese figures had topped countries setting up offshore firms through corporate service provider Trident Trust.

In addition to Diab and Mikati, the leak also had financial information linked to Lebanon's central bank governor Riad Salameh and other bankers.

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Reporting by Maha El Dahan Editing by Peter Graff and Grant McCool

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