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Lebanese central bank governor charged with dereliction of duty

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Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has been charged with dereliction of duty and breach of trust over alleged misuse of millions of dollars provided by the state regulator last year.

Judge Ghada Aoun has been investigating claims that dollars provided by the central bank via an electronic trading platform to help people pay for essential needs and expenses were sold on the black market, where they’d fetch a higher price.

According to Bloomberg, between $5 million to $7 million were squandered from June through December. Thirty-seven financial institutions including money exchange bureaus profited from the transactions.

Aoun referred the case to an investigative judge to pursue it. Salameh, who’s headed the Banque du Liban since 1993, is also entangled in a separate Swiss investigation into possible embezzlement from the Lebanese central bank.

The Swiss didn’t identify the target of their money-laundering probe, but Lebanon’s Al Akhbar newspaper reported an alleged transfer of some $400 million linked to Salameh.

The governor has denied wrongdoing in the Swiss case.

The head of the central bank enjoys immunity from legal prosecution under Lebanese law. A judge needs the approval of the government before pursuing a case as actions against the governor risk monetary stability.

Faced with its worst financial crisis in decades, Lebanon’s currency has come undone, reaching around 8,800 pounds per dollar on the black market.

The central bank continues to subsidize fuel and wheat at the official exchange rate of 1,500 per dollar. The subsidized rate that applied to the electronic platform was 3,900.

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