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Lebanon detains actor over central bank chief case, says judicial source

BEIRUT (AFP) – Lebanese authorities have detained a well-known actor as part of an investigation into money laundering and illicit enrichment involving the country’s central bank governor, a judicial source said on Friday.

Actor Stephanie Saliba “is currently detained pending investigation following orders from the financial prosecutor”, the source told AFP, declining to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

She was questioned “on suspicion of money laundering and illegal enrichment” in relation to the central bank governor’s case.

Long-serving central bank chief Riad Salameh, 72, is among top officials widely blamed for Lebanon’s unprecedented economic crisis, dubbed by as one of the worst in recent world history.

In June, a Lebanese prosecutor probing Salameh on suspicion of financial misconduct requested charges be issued against him based on preliminary investigation findings, a court official said at the time. Saliba arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday after taking part in a film festival in the Saudi city of Jeddah and was detained after previously failing to appear for questioning, the judicial source added.

Local media have claimed Saliba was close to Salameh and that he showered her with expensive gifts.

But a second judicial source with knowledge of the Salameh probe said there was no proof the central bank chief had directly transferred any money to Saliba.

“The gifts she received from Salameh, whether it was a house or jewellery, do not amount to money laundering,” the source added.

Saliba’s agent declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

Lebanon opened a probe into Salameh’s wealth last year, after the office of Switzerland’s top prosecutor requested assistance in an investigation into more than USD300 million which he allegedly embezzled out of the central bank with the help of his brother.

Both Salamehs have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.