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Lebanon court orders seizure of central bank governor’s assets, real estates

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Lebanon's central bank governor, Riad Salameh (Photo by AFP)

A Lebanese court has ruled to seize the real estates and assets of the governor of Lebanon's central bank, after several lawyers filed a lawsuit accusing him of undermining the financial status of the country as well as other crimes.

Judge Faisal Makki took the decision against Riad Salameh on Monday, ordering the repossession of some property and assets owned by him, including his residence in the upscale suburban area of Rabieh just north of the capital Beirut, official National News Agency reported.

The freezing order came after some lawyers and activists lodged a lawsuit against Salameh for “crimes of undermining the financial status of the state and urging the public to withdraw funds deposited in banks and sell state bonds, in addition to job negligence and embezzlement.”

The Lebanese pound traded on the black market at around 8,100 to the US dollar on Sunday.

Such a decline in value has greatly impacted the purchasing power of Lebanese people, who have also been facing high inflation rates for basic commodities.

Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) director, Kristalina Georgieva, said Lebanon is in dire need of tough reforms to steer out of its financial crisis.

“Lebanon is in a very difficult economic situation and needs to undertake difficult reforms to overcome its crisis,” said Georgieva in remarks to Al Jazeera television news network on July 17.

She appealed to the Lebanese to “work on the unity of purpose,” and “take measures to re-balance the economy" so that the IMF can continue its engagement with the Lebanese government, but noted that the organization "has not reached an agreement yet."

Georgieva pointed out that IMF “negotiations with Lebanon have not made any progress yet, but we are committed to it.”

Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis in decades. The Lebanese pound has continued to plummet against the US dollar, losing more than 80 percent of its value over the last weeks while sources of foreign currency have dried up.

The economic situation is fueling inflation, which the Finance Ministry has estimated will reach 27 percent later this year.

Back in April, Prime Minister Hassan Diab assured Lebanese citizens that at least 98 percent of bank deposits will not be affected by any financial measures that his government plans to take.

Some economists have, however, cast doubts on such promises, terming them as “out of touch with reality.”

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