European prosecutors on Friday questioned Lebanon’s Finance Minister Youssef el-Khalil, a senior judicial source said, as part of their probe into whether the country’s long-standing central bank governor embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds.
Governor Riad Salameh is being investigated alongside his brother Raja in Lebanon and in at least five European countries over allegedly taking more than $300 million from the central bank through commission fees on bond sales.
The two brothers deny any wrongdoing.
According to the judicial source in Lebanon, European prosecutors questioned Khalil about his ties to the central bank and to Forry Associates, the company owned by Raja Salameh that took the commissions from bond sales.
European investigators landed in Beirut last week and have since questioned Raja Salameh, an assistant to the central bank governor named Marianne Howayek, and financial experts and auditors.
Khalil told European investigators that he had not heard of Forry, the source said. Khalil, who declined to comment, served as head of the central bank’s financial operations department under Riad Salameh.
European investigators concluded their mission to Lebanon following Khalil’s hearing, according to the source. It was not immediately clear if they were planning to return to Lebanon for further interrogations.
French prosecutors have informed Riad that they intend to press charges of fraud and aggravated money laundering during a planned hearing in France on May 16.
It remains unclear whether the central bank governor, whose latest term ends in July, will attend the hearing in Paris.
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