BEIRUT: Lebanese judges resumed their work on Monday after a suspension that lasted for more than five months against the background of demands to raise their salaries, which had lost their value with the financial collapse in the country.
Also on Monday, logistical arrangements began in the main hall of the Court of Cassation to receive European judges and investigators from France, Germany and Luxembourg.
They will investigate the central bank and Gov. Riad Salameh on cases related to financial transfers that took place from Lebanon to the banks of France, Germany and Luxembourg.
The investigations seek to identify the sources of funds and the extent to which they are linked to corruption, money laundering and financial crimes in European countries.
Meetings between the European judicial delegation and Lebanese judges will begin on Wednesday and will center on preparation for the sessions during which the former will listen to bankers and current and former deputies of the governor of the central bank.
A judicial source told Arab News that the European investigators will brief Lebanese judges on the questions they will ask witnesses and those called in for questioning.
The Central Criminal Investigation Department of the Court of Cassation’s Public Prosecution Office in Lebanon has called in 12 people, whom the source said will attend the investigation sessions.
The judicial source said that the French delegation asked the Lebanese judiciary to view a file related to tax evasion, suspicion of embezzlement of public funds, illegal enrichment, forgery, and the use of counterfeiters. The Lebanese side agreed to allow the French side to view this case.
The inquiries at their current stage will not include investigating Salameh.
According to the protocol agreed upon between the Lebanese judiciary and representatives of the three European countries, and in order to preserve Lebanese sovereignty, foreign judges and investigators shall direct their questions to the Lebanese people who are being investigated through Lebanese judges attending the sessions.
No question shall be directed to the Lebanese persons, whose lawyers are entitled to be present.
The judicial source affirmed that European judges do not have the right to file a claim against anyone during the sessions held in Beirut, nor to take any action against any Lebanese during the hearing.
If there is a claim, it will be taken to the European country and an extradition request will be sent to Lebanon, the source said, noting that the Lebanese judiciary cannot extradite any Lebanese person to any other country for trial.
The European Observatory for the Integrity of Lebanon said in a statement that the investigations fall within the framework of the UN Convention against Corruption and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
The organization hopes that the European initiative will motivate the Lebanese judiciary to seriously pursue corruption cases in Lebanon.
It stated that Lebanon, being a signatory to the Anti-Corruption Treaty, must lift all restrictions that would impede the investigation of money laundering files, especially with regard to banking secrecy.
As a result of these procedures, the recovery of money will become possible for all parties that conducted the investigations.
In another development, the joint parliamentary committees completed the study of a capital control law.
Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab announced that the committees seek to grant each depositor, according to the law, an amount of $800, half of which will be in dollars and the second half in Lebanese pounds, according to the actual market price.
Economist Nassib Ghobril suggested that if all depositors withdrew $800 per month, most banks would close their doors two months after the date of implementation of the law.
The joint committees should consider the extent of the banks’ ability to adhere to these figures and the will and ability of the Banque du Liban to contribute to them, said Ghobril.
The approval of the capital control law aims to prevent the transfer of hard currency abroad, organize withdrawals at home, and preserve the reserves of the central bank in foreign currencies and the remaining liquidity of commercial banks with correspondent banks abroad.