French prosecutors open probe into Lebanese bank governor – AFP

PARIS (Reuters) – French prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into money laundering allegations against Lebanon’s central bank governor, Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday.

Riad Salameh is under investigation in relation to possible conspiracy and organised money-laundering, AFP said, citing a source with knowledge of the case.

Salameh’s French lawyer Pierre-Olivier Sur dismissed the allegations as a politically motivated “communications operation” in a statement sent to Reuters by the bank governor on Sunday.

Responding last month to the underlying legal complaint against him by anti-corruption group Sherpa, Salameh said he had demonstrated that his wealth had been acquired before he took up his bank post in 1993.

The French financial prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sherpa filed the complaint against Salameh in April, citing investments including millions of euros in property.

Lebanon opened its own investigation in April following a Swiss legal request alleging that more than $300 million had been embezzled from the central bank via a company owned by Salameh’s brother.

Salameh had no comment at the time when asked by Reuters about the opening of that investigation and actions related to it, including the sealing of his brother’s office and the confiscation of files.

Lebanon’s financial and political elite have long been under scrutiny over allegations of mismanagement, corruption and obstructing efforts to unlock international aid.

(Reporting by Laurence Frost; Additional reporting by Laila Bassam in Beirut; Editing by Frances Kerry)