Lebanese actress linked to governor freed after brief arrest

Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank, speaks during a press conference, in Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 11, 2019. A Lebanese judge has put under arrest an actress who has links to the country’s central bank governor after she showed up for questioning on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, judicial officials and state-run National News Agency said. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese actress with links to the country’s controversial Central Bank governor was briefly arrested Friday after answering summons and showing up for questioning at the Beirut prosecutors office. She was set free hours later on condition she return for more questioning when needed, a judicial official and the state-run new agency said.

he arrest is the latest in the controversy surrounding the governor, Riad Salameh, who is being investigated for corruption as an economic meltdown and financial collapse convulse the tiny Mediterranean nation.

According to the National News Agency, a judge, acting on the request by Lebanon’s top financial prosecutor, ordered that Stephanie Saliba be placed in custody after she showed up earlier in the day at the prosecutors office in Beirut for questioning. The report gave no reason for her arrest.

A judicial official said investigative Judge Iman Abdullah questioned Saliba over “illicit enrichment and money laundering.” The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, did not give further details.

Saliba was later questioned by Ghada Aoun, an investigative judge at Mount Lebanon district court who has been investigating Salameh.

Aoun set Saliba free on Friday evening on condition that she comes for further questioning when needed, the judicial official said, adding that Saliba will be also banned from leaving the country until the questioning ends.

Salameh is being investigated in several European nations, including Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein, for potential money laundering and embezzlement. He has repeatedly denied corruption charges.

Reports in Lebanese media say the governor gave Saliba expensive gifts.

Earlier this week, Aoun issued a search warrant for Saliba’s home as part of her investigation of the governor.

Since 2019, Lebanon has been in the grips of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s political class.

Many hold the 72-year-old Salameh responsible for the crisis, citing policies that drove up national debt and caused the Lebanese pound to lose 90% of its value against the dollar. The Central Bank governor, who has held the post for the past three decades, still enjoys the backing of top politicians.

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