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Lebanon's finance minister questioned by European investigators

In a first, Lebanese Finance Minster Youssef Khalil was questioned today in the case against Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and his brother, who are accused of embezzlement.
Retired servicemen try to remove the barbed wire barricade outside Lebanon's central bank during a demonstration demanding inflation-adjustments to their pensions in Beirut on March 30, 2023. (Photo by JOSEPH EID / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images)

BEIRUT — A European judicial delegation questioned Lebanon’s caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil at the Justice Palace in Beirut Friday in a case involving the central bank’s governor, according to the official National News Agency.

Before he was named minister in Najib Mikati’s current government, Khalil occupied several positions at the central bank since 1982. Khalil, who is seen as a close associate of Governor Riad Salameh, is being questioned over his alleged role in covering up the financial crimes Salameh is accused of during his tenure as head of financial operations until 2021.

No details of the hearing have been made public yet.

The questioning of a sitting minister who enjoys immunity under the constitution is a first in Lebanon. For decades, the country’s entrenched political elite has evaded any accountability amid rampant corruption. Lebanon is currently facing an unprecedented economic and financial crisis that has led to high poverty rates and increasing prices. Meanwhile, banks have been limiting cash withdrawals and imposing informal capital controls amid shortages of foreign currency.

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