Lebanese Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said – today, Friday – that his country’s authorities are “seriously discussing” the fate of the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salameh, after Beirut received a note from the International Police Organization (Interpol), following the issuance of a French judge an international arrest warrant against the ruler, and invitations were also issued inside Lebanon for the resignation of the Governor of the Bank of Lebanon.
The Lebanese Minister of Interior added that he would implement the Interpol warrant against Salameh if the Lebanese judiciary decided to implement it.
The Interpol warrant was issued following France’s issuance of a warrant to arrest Salameh as part of its investigation into whether he had embezzled more than $300 million from the Central Bank of Lebanon’s funds, an accusation denied by the Governor of the Banque du Liban (the Central Bank).
Aude Bourouzi, the French judge in charge of investigating the funds and property of the Governor of the Banque du Liban in Europe, issued an international arrest warrant against Salameh last Tuesday, after he was absent from his interrogation session before her in Paris.
On the other hand, Pierre-Olivier Sur, the lawyer for the Governor of the Banque du Liban, said – to Agence France-Presse – that his client’s absence is due to his failure to inform him of the obligation to appear before the French judiciary “according to the rules.”
Last February, the Public Prosecutor in Lebanon, Ghassan Oweidat, had prosecuted Salameh on charges of illegal enrichment and money laundering, noting that Lebanese laws prevent the extradition of citizens to any foreign country and stipulate that they be tried inside the country.
Al-Saad on calls for the dismissal of the Governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salameh: A new ruler cannot be appointed before electing a president, and do we want the current government to appoint the new ruler for the next 6 years? From the media, I learned that there has been no claim from the French judge so far against Salameh, but rather a memorandum of research and investigation. The judicial path must be left… pic.twitter.com/BwzDLgLXxd
– Ragy el Saad (@Ragyelsaad) May 18, 2023
And the French News Agency quoted a senior judicial official in Lebanon as saying that it is likely that the Public Prosecutor Aweidat, who received the Interpol warrant, will summon Salama to an investigation session next week, “after that he will ask the French judiciary to hand him his judicial file, and decide if the evidence available in it is sufficient.” To accuse Salameh and put him on trial.
And if the accusations, which vary between money laundering and illegal enrichment, are proven, “a Salama trial will take place in Lebanon,” according to the judicial source.
In a televised interview conducted by the Governor of the Banque du Liban yesterday evening, Thursday, Salameh said, “My conscience is clear, and the charges against me are incorrect, and if a judgment is issued against me proving that I am convicted, I will step down from the bank’s governance.”
Salameh intends to challenge the French arrest warrant, saying that it violates the principles of the agreement between Lebanon and France.
Yesterday, Thursday, His Excellency Al-Shami called on the Lebanese Deputy Prime Minister, Riad Salameh, to resign, after France issued an international arrest warrant against him. “When a person in any country is accused of such crimes, he should not remain in a position of responsibility, and he should step down immediately,” al-Shami told Reuters.
A number of members of the Lebanese Parliament also demanded that the Governor of the Banque du Liban step down, and yesterday, Thursday, 10 opposition parties and forces issued a joint statement calling on Salama to resign, and among the signatory parties was the Lebanese Phalange Party, led by Sami Gemayel.
And Riad Salameh (72 years old) is one of the longest-serving central bank governors in the world, as he has held his position since 1993, and his term ends next July, and Salameh said yesterday, Thursday, that he will not remain in office after the end of his term.