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Friday, July 23, 2021

As Lebanon Collapses, the Man With an Iron Grip on Its Funds Faces Questions

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The coronavirus pandemic and an enormous explosion within the port of Beirut final August additional devastated the financial system.

Estimates put the central financial institution’s losses at $50 billion to $60 billion. The Worldwide Financial Fund has supplied help, however Lebanese officers accuse Mr. Salameh of blocking an audit sought by the USA and different nations that might unlock I.M.F. assist, in addition to a separate investigation into alleged fraud on the central financial institution.

Most Lebanese have stated goodbye to no matter financial savings they’d whereas the foreign money has crashed, decreasing salaries as soon as price $1,000 a month to about $80. The central financial institution is burning by means of its reserves, spending about $500 million monthly to subsidize imports of gas, drugs and grain.

“Lebanon has been residing on borrowed time, and now the chickens have come dwelling to roost,” stated Toufic Gaspard, a Lebanese economist and former adviser on the I.M.F. “The entire banking system has collapsed, and now we have turn out to be a money financial system.”

The crash has soured many Lebanese on their as soon as celebrated central banker.

“I can’t say something good about Riad Salameh,” stated Toufic Khoueiri, a co-owner of a well-liked kebab restaurant, whereas having lunch with a pal in Beirut. “Our cash will not be caught within the banks, however merely stolen.”

His pal, Roger Tanios, a lawyer, stated he had as soon as admired Mr. Salameh for retaining Lebanon financially secure however had modified his thoughts.

Mr. Salameh, he stated, had gone spectacularly astray.

“Each nation has its mafia,” Mr. Tanios stated. “In Lebanon, the mafia has its nation.”

Ben Hubbard reported from Beirut, and Liz Alderman from Paris. Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, and Asmaa al-Omar from Istanbul.

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